Women in the arts: Dasha Zhukova
A very modern art patron
While many have tried to brush her off as just another Russian rich girl, Dasha Zhukova refuses to bow down to stereotypes and continues to impress the art, fashion and media worlds.
Born Darya Alexandrovna Zhukova on June 8, 1981 in Moscow, her father is an oil trader and mother a molecular biologist. Zhukova's parents split when she was three, and at 10 she moved to the States with her mother, and found herself in Houston, Texas eating Fruit Loops for the first time. At 12, she moved to California, but wasn't happy about the move. "I was so angry because I thought Houston was the best place on earth," says Zhukova. "I even threatened to divorce her, to be an emancipated minor, if she tried to move me."
But Zhukova grew to love her new home town, so much that she attended the University of California, Santa Barbara - studying pre-med, Slavic and literature. Possessing the triple threat of brains, beauty and style, Zhukova founded a clothing line with high school friend Christine Tang called Kova & T in 2006. But a trip back to Moscow to visit her father during her final year of college persuaded her to move back there permanently. So she did - and ended up dating star Russian tennis player Marat Safin soon after.
By age 25, Zhukovich had moved to London, split with Safin and was in a relationship with Russian billionaire, art collector and owner of Chelsea FC football club Roman Abramovich. The couple were secretly wed in 2008, managing to keep the marriage a secret until early in 2015. She gave birth to the couple's son Aaron in 2009 and daughter Leah in 2013.
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Thanks to Zhukovich's wealth and connections, she copped the usual amount of flak in the British tabloids when she first moved to London. The attention only deepened once she was announced as editor-in-chief of Pop magazine in February 2009, succeeding founder Katie Grand. While she famously resigned in November 2010 to focus on more independent publications, what she did next surprised many.
No stranger to the art or philanthropy worlds (the couple broke records when purchasing Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon art works), Zhukova had founded the Iris Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting contemporary culture in 2008. It was through Iris, that she developed the project she is currently best known for - the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow.
"I actually love physics, but art is where I thought I could make a difference for my country," she says of the project. "The minute I walked into the building... I had a vision of what it could be. Nine months later, Amy Winehouse was singing at the opening." The building, a former 1920s bus depot designed by renowned architect Konstantin Melnikov has now grown into an impressive venue credited with introducing modern-day Russia to the international art scene. It has showcased works from contemporary art icons such as Marina Abramović, John Baldessari and James Turrell, to name a few.
While Zhukova's art credentials (she's a member of the board of trustees at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and investor for online art platform Artsy) place her at the forefront of the international art scene, she's also passionate about fashion and launched Garage magazine in 2011 - a fusion of art and fashion.
With the Garage Centre set to unveil its new Rem Koolhaas-designed home in Gorky Park on June 12, it seems 33 year-old-Zhukova isn't finished with her cultural mission just yet. Cramming this much into her life so far, we can only wait and wonder what she'll do next.
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