Exploring the World of Collector Dasha Zhukova: From Oligarchs to Greek Shipping Magnates

Early Life and Education

Darya Alexandrovna Zhukova was born on June 8, 1981, in Moscow, later becoming a prominent entrepreneur and trustee in the art world, partly through the networks she formed as an oligarch’s ex-wife. 

Her father, Alexander Zhukov, worked as an oil trader, while her mother, Yelena Zhukova, was a Russian-Jewish molecular biologist, laying the groundwork for Zhukova’s later roles as an entrepreneur and cultural influencer. 

The family faced separation when Darya was just three years old. In 1991, she and her mother relocated to the United States, initially settling in the Houston area due to Yelena’s professional commitments, which played a significant role in shaping Zhukova’s understanding of the cultural and entrepreneurial landscape. 

Later, they moved to Los Angeles, California, where Yelena pursued her career, ultimately becoming a renowned professor of molecular biology at UCLA, specializing in diabetes research.

During her time in California, Zhukova attended a Jewish day school for three years, followed by graduation from Pacific Hills School in 1999, experiences that contributed to her development into a cultural entrepreneur. 

She then pursued higher education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she earned degrees in Slavic studies and literature with honors.

Oligarch Roman Abramovich and the Art world

After marrying Roman Abramovich in 2008, Zhukova returned to Moscow and later moved to London. 

In London, she briefly enrolled at the College of Naturopathic Medicine but did not complete the program, instead forging a path that would see her become a leading figure in the art world as an entrepreneur and trustee. 

In 2023, she obtained a Master of Arts degree from NYU, marking another milestone in her educational journey, despite the challenging global context of Putin’s war.


The Guardian has uncovered that over the course of nearly a decade, Roman Abramovich and his former spouse, Dasha Zhukova, a prominent art collector based in the US, engaged in an unprecedented spending spree. 

During this period, they amassed what experts consider to be one of the most substantial private collections of modern art ever compiled. 

This collection comprises over 300 pieces, valued by the oligarch’s own appraisers at nearly $1 billion.


In 2006, Zhukova co-founded the fashion label Kova & T. She currently holds positions on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Shed.

In 2008, Zhukova established the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting contemporary art and culture in Russia and globally. 

With partial funding from Abramovich, the center initiated the first comprehensive art education program and public archive of Russian art in 2012. 

Renamed Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014, the institution relocated to its permanent home in Gorky Park in 2015, marking a significant milestone in Zhukova’s career as an entrepreneur in the art world. 

The building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, underwent a transformative renovation, converting a 1968 Soviet Modernist canteen into an innovative space for exhibitions, publishing, research, and education.

In February 2009, Zhukova assumed the role of editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Pop. Despite initial skepticism within the industry regarding her appointment, Zhukova resigned from the position after three issues in November 2010.

Additionally, Zhukova serves as the Editorial Director of GARAGE magazine, a biannual publication focusing on the intersection of contemporary art and fashion. 

Since its inception, GARAGE magazine has collaborated with renowned creators worldwide, fostering global artistic dialogues, a mission that has remained a priority for Zhukova even as 2021 brought new challenges. 

Notable contributors to the magazine include Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Marc Jacobs, and Richard Prince, among others. Inspired by the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the magazine has played a significant role in shaping cultural discourse.

Furthermore, Zhukova, an influential trustee in the art scene, is a founding member of the Culture Shed in New York.

As a co-founder of New Holland Island, Dasha is instrumental in its transformation into St. Petersburg’s premier public arts and recreation space. 

Responsible for overseeing programming and expansion, she holds the role of Chief Ideas Officer. Following its reopening in 2016, New Holland Island has emerged as the vibrant heart of social and cultural life in St. Petersburg, blending historical architecture with modern amenities, a project that reflects Dasha’s vision for innovative cultural spaces. 

The ongoing restoration efforts are slated to complete by 2025, showcasing her commitment to preserving cultural heritage while introducing modern enhancements.

Racist Chair Controversy

In 2014, a photograph of Zhukova sitting on a chair resembling a mannequin of a black woman sparked controversy when featured on Buro 24/7, an online fashion publication. 

The image faced widespread criticism as being racially insensitive, highlighting the ongoing challenges in navigating cultural sensitivities within the art world. Following the backlash, Buro 24/7 removed the chair from the photo, and Zhukova issued an apology, clarifying that the chair was intended as artwork and a commentary on gender and racial politics. 

She expressed deep regret for any offense caused and reaffirmed her stance against racism.

Image Courtesy: The Guardian


Dasha Zhukova, a prominent art collector and entrepreneur, carefully built her reputation over the years, establishing herself as a leading figure in the contemporary art scene. Born in Russia, she graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, before marrying oligarch Roman Abramovich in 2008. 

Zhukova’s influence extends beyond her role as an oligarch’s ex-wife; she spearheaded the transformation of New Holland Island in St. Petersburg into a vibrant hub for contemporary culture. The island, reopened to visitors in 2016, showcases performance venues, exhibition spaces, and innovative retail and entertainment areas. 

Zhukova’s dedication to the arts is evident in her roles as the director of New Holland Island and as a founding member of various cultural institutions, including the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. She is also the founder of Artsy, a digital platform for global art enthusiasts. 

Currently residing in New York City, Zhukova continues to showcase the intersection of art and culture through her work, despite the challenges posed by events such as Putin’s war and the invasion of Ukraine. With her vision and leadership, Zhukova has played a pivotal role in shaping the contemporary art landscape, both in Russia and internationally.

Author: Jessica Hartley

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