When 500 haute-coutured, Gucci-shod, Bulgari-bulked-up luminaries deplane in Moscow this week, at the behest of Roman Abramovich and his wife Dasha Zhukova, it will mark two milestones.
First, the series of glittering events surrounding the inauguration of their Garage Museum will be the most elegant festivities in the Russian capital since the hurried departure of the Romanovs a century ago, and secondly, the homage paid to Roman and Dasha by the international A-list will be their de facto coronation as the new Tsar and Tsarina of the contemporary art world.
By shunning the spotlight and deflecting attention from their imperial acquisitions, the Golden Couple have, until now, managed to avoid scrutiny of their sumptuous lifestyle, which cognoscenti agree is unequaled by anyone else on earth.
The Abramoviches occupy the grandest private residence in London, possess mansions in Aspen and Beverly Hills, have a 70-acre retreat in Saint Bartholomews, and are combining three adjacent townhouses on East 75th street to create a pied-à-terre on the Upper East Side. Let’s not forget their plush estates in Cap d’Antibes and the English countryside, plus God-knows-where-else. These are only the ones we know about.
Luckily for them, when Roman and Dasha grow tired of staring at four walls, they can escape to The Eclipse, which, at 536 feet, is the largest private yacht afloat, eclipsing the dinghy belonging to the ruler of Dubai by 20 inches.
The fact that the Abramoviches have accumulated this vast wealth (we haven’t even gotten to the art collections) more or less under the radar–while Donald Trump keeps reminding us of his not even remotely comparable fortune–is a testament to Roman’s shrewdness and acumen. He observes an admonition in the Talmud: “Seek not the attention of princes.”
Then again, he doesn’t need to–Abramovich is the best friend of Vladimir Putin. In fact, it was Roman who first suggested to Boris Yeltsin that he groom Putin as his successor. He’s in like Flynn with the Kremlin autocrat.
Before we get to the Garage museum party, you must be asking yourself: How did Abramovich, only 48, get so rich? Briefly put, he seen his opportunities and he took ‘em. When the Soviet Union started to implode around 1990, Roman was a factory mechanic with a side gig selling imported rubber duckies out of his apartment. Before long, the state monopolies on resources like oil and aluminum were up for grabs and he grabbed. He was reaping so many rubles that he quickly became a confidant and “partner” of President Yeltsin. Now he’s been the sidekick of Putin for 15 years, and, hey, when was that not helpful to a Russian oligarch. Forbes puts his current wealth at $10.2 billion. There are those with more money but none who live more luxuriously than the Abramoviches.
Roman and Dasha were married six years ago but never disclosed that fact until they casually mentioned it earlier this year to the WSJ. They have two children (Roman has five more by his first wife) . Dasha, 33, was born in Moscow to a prominent family but moved to L.A. at ten and got a B.A. from UC Santa Barbara. She once edited trendy magazines but in recent years has been promoting contemporary art. Their own superb private collection is never publicized.
Dasha hired the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to create the Garage Museum from an abandoned restaurant on the grounds of Gorky Park, Moscow’s answer to Coney Island. (Your humble editor rode the rides there during the Brezhnev era.) Koolhaas enclosed the brick building in a translucent polycarbonate shell and preserved graffiti on its walls (an outré affectation that is fast becoming trite.)
So who’s flying in to salute the new Tsar and Tsarina? Francois Pinault, the French billionaire who owns Christie’s and brands like Brioni and Saint Laurent, will be there. Also, Sheikha Mayassa Al-Thani, who oversees Qatar’s museums. Fashion designer Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, who run their own art foundation. Eli Broad, the grand seigneur of the Los Angeles art establishment. Thomas Campbell, director of The Met in NY. Ukrainian billionaire Len Blavatnik. Jeff Koons. Harvey Weinstein. You get the picture.
Dasha (her proper name is Daria) is working with high-powered NY publicist Nadine Johnson to import the notables for the private dinner on Wednesday (everything is very hush hush) so there will be plenty of eye-popping Amazons and transnational nomads to jazz up the room. (The Garage museum opens to the public on Friday, June 12, which is, perhaps not coincidentally, a national holiday, Russia Day).
How the glamorous contingent will be amused on succeeding days hasn’t been revealed, but it is likely they will be given a private tour of the Armoury Museum in the Kremlin, the repository of the Romanov royal regalia. Intriguingly, the website for the museum says most of it will be closed to the public on June 12 and 13. Has Vlad shut it down for his buddy Ro? Stay tuned.
Also stay tuned for photos of the guests, which will be flying around the Internet ere long. Would you be surprised to see mug shots of such seasoned scenemakers as Naomi Campbell, Vito Schnabel, Harry Brant and Peter Brant, Jr.? Of course you wouldn’t. Without them, it ain’t a party.