'Via Bettina Rheims
, a Russian oligarch introduces his lovely wife to the world' is the subtitle to The Book of Olga
(nsfw), a new book from Taschen
. This object operates on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. As an opulent presentation of what is deemed quite literally a 'trophy wife', it's the modern equivalent of Gainsborough
, portraiture for the post-Madonna
But through Rheims' involvement the portraits also claim to operate on the level of art, an expression not of love or taste (however misguided this might appear) but a statement of the role of portraiture and presentation within a relationship. The pornographic gaze has evolved from the blurred edges and frenzied brushstrokes of Giovanni Boldini
, hinting at a hidden eroticism. Instead, everything is on display. Like Boldini
or Gainsborough, these images are struck through with fantasy, and just as in the past, that fantasy doesn't necessarily belong to the sitter, but to the person who paid for the picture.
Perhaps this is reading way to much into what is essentially a glossy version of the glamour photography gift sessions
(nsfw, in all probability). It begs the question, what will be the artistic legacy of the oligarch explosion? Now that the twilight
beckons, the temptation is to scout around and decry the paucity of the artistic and architectural commissions that resulted from their five year rule
of the international scene.
What will be left? A Philippe Starck designed yacht, Project Sigma
, commissioned back in 2005
and only just breaking cover (and starting work in its role in facilitating tax avoidance
). A private house by Zaha Hadid
, which may or may not exist in some physical form by now. The charred remains
of an house in New York by UN Studio. Countless destroyed supercars
littering the streets of Moscow
and St Petersburg. Dachas that are trumping McMansions
. Large swathes of London under Russian ownership. A 'destabilised' Riviera
'. Etc. etc.
What lingers is the hunch that these acts (the ones of creation, not of destruction) were never deliberate artistic statements (like the recent Koons-designed yacht
), but accidental ones, an aesthetic evolved out of new, hitherto unknown, arenas of status and display.