Double standards in black and white?

Here’s one that’s been niggling.

Let’s start with Tuesday’s Evening Standard:

Roman Abramovich’s girlfriend Dasha Zhukova apologises for ‘black woman’ chair photo


The partner of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich today apologised after she was pictured sitting on a chair designed to resemble a half-naked black woman.

Dasha Zhukova, 32, who has two children with the Chelsea owner, was caught up in controversy after an online magazine published a photo of her perched on the artwork.

Buro 24/7 used the image of Ms Zhukova yesterday, which was Martin Luther King Day, to illustrate an unrelated interview about the former model’s new magazine, Garage.

Ms Zhukova said: “This photograph, which has been published completely out of context, is of an artwork intended specifically as a commentary on gender and racial politics.

“I utterly abhor racism, and would like to apologise to anyone who has been offended by this image.”

The artwork by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard is one of a series that “reinterprets art historical works from artist Allen Jones as a commentary on gender and racial politics”, said a spokesman for Ms Zhukova

Miroslava Duma, the blog’s editor, also posted the photo on Instagram.

Duma quickly deleted the picture from Instagram and cropped out the chair on Buro 24/7.

Campaign group Organizing for Women’s Liberation criticised the picture after it circulated on the internet.

The chair is similar in style to a famous piece by Lond[o]n pop artist Allen Jones, whose 1969 fibreglass work “Chair” was made to resemble a white woman.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy of the cropping, I think we get it: it’s a kind of irony, “a commentary on gender and racial politics”.

However, there’s still a glaring inconsistency here: why does it matter if the female form is “a half-naked black woman”?

If it’s “offensive” when “re-interpret[ed] … by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard”, why was it cutting-edgy “by Lond[o]n pop artist Allen Jones”? Why is the skin-pigmentation the difference?

I have to admit I found Allen Jones embarrassing forty-odd years ago. Jones was in the business épater le bourgeois (find the English equivalent for that, @JohnRentoul) — and Jones certainly managed it with this particular bourgeois. He also seems to have made quite a career out of it, and it got him into the Tate:

Chair 1969 by Allen Jones born 1937

A trifle sticky?

Should we not admit it was naff in 1969, and — “re-interpret[ed]” — it is doubly naff in 2014?

As for Ms Dasha Zhukova, she clearly has more money than taste. But then Dickens skewered all noveau-riche (again, no apology @JohnRentoul) Veneerings, back in 1865:

Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All their furniture was new, all their friends were new, all their servants were new, their plate was new, their carriage was new, their harness was new, their horses were new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a bran-new baby, and if they had set up a great-grandfather, he would have come home in matting from the Pantechnicon, without a scratch upon him, French polished to the crown of his head.

For, in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the new coat of arms, to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and upstairs again to the new fire-escape, all things were in a state of high varnish and polish. And what was observable in the furniture, was observable in the Veneerings — the surface smelt a little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.


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Filed under Evening Standard, London, sleaze.

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