The Swiss-born, New York–based artist Urs Fischer has never been afraid to cause a stir. He once, for example, dug an eight-foot hole in the gallery floor of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in a work that he titled You; more recently, he collaborated with Katy Perry on an installation that essentially allowed people passing by to vandalize her visage with clay. But even Fischer hesitated when Dasha Zhukova, the 37-year-old Russian art collector and founder of Garage magazine and the Garage Museum, called him up to request that he burn her to the ground.
Zhukova’s query didn’t come out of nowhere; she was simply looking to be next in the line of art world figures of whom Fischer has created giant wax sculptures—which is to say candles—before lighting the wicks at the top of their heads and making a spectacle out of watching them melt. Fischer has already proven himself to be one of the few who’d be bold enough to make art out of the demise of an industry powerhouse like Julian Schnabel, but making an effigy out of Zhukova—who was, until last year, married to the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, and seems to exclusively keep company with billionaires—gave him some pause. According to the artist, however, not for the reason that you may think.
“I told her I would think about it, because before her I only did men,” Fischer told artnet News of his hesitation, adding that he began the series because he “was interested in the way different men choose to present themselves, some need to wear a suit and glasses to be a man, and other’s are more naked, and don’t need this type of armor.”
It wasn’t long, though, before he’d arranged for Zhukova to move into the Gagosian’s Davies Street gallery in London—or at least a larger-than-life wax version of her, outfitted in a pink gown and reclining in a swivel chair that matched her orange heels. The most important accessory was, of course, the wick atop of her head, which a crowd gathered to watch catch fire this past Monday, at which point the Gagosian put out a press release that, lest people get the wrong idea, starts off with a sentence stating that Zhukova is a “personal friend of the artist.”
Fischer is, after all, doing Zhukova quite the favor, not only making the sculpture at her request, but significantly helping her with her very niche problem of a troubled relationship with chairs, ever since Miroslava Duma’s website Buro 24/7 infamously posted a portrait of her sitting fully clothed atop a throne of sorts, made out of a strikingly realistic figure of a largely naked black woman. Even better for Duma, Fischer, who’s now a pro at burning effigies, has perfected his technique so that Dasha will remain alight until November 3, when the exhibition comes to a close. Take a look at how she’s holding up so far via Instagram, here.