(She received backlash that year, but for a different reason: In a rare public blunder, she posed for a photograph sitting on a “chair” by the Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard that depicted a Black woman in bondage. The image spurred outrage online, and Ms. Zhukova publicly apologized. )
Behind the scenes, Ms. Zhukova was expanding her ambitions for the Garage, with plans to turn it into Moscow’s equivalent of MoMA or the Tate Modern. She hired Kate Fowle, who later went on to lead MoMA PS1, as chief curator. Ms. Zhukova and Mr. Abramovich also brought on Mr. Koolhaas to reimagine what had been a cavernous Soviet-era restaurant into a silvery modernist box, outfitted with big garage doors. The new museum was the centerpiece of a revamped Gorky Park, now filled with bike paths and restaurants.
Showing at Garage became, for artists, “a credible and attractive thing to be able to have on your C.V.,” said the artist Rashid Johnson, whose works have been acquired by MoMA and the Met, as well as by Ms. Zhukova. (Only rarely did artists decline, Ms. Fowle said, but it did happen. The most common reason was discomfort showing in a country with anti-L.G.B.T.Q. laws.) Ms. Fowle piloted a training program for contemporary art curation at the Garage, which she said was the first of its kind in Russia, and also developed an extensive Soviet art archive.
To celebrate the reopening in 2015, Ms. Zhukova once again got a crowd (George Lucas, Karlie Kloss, Harvey Weinstein, the French art dealer Almine Ruiz-Picasso, the Serpentine Gallery director Hans Ulrich Obrist) to Moscow. Arianna Huffington moderated multiple panels, and journalists flew in from across the globe, their expenses covered by the museum.
From Oligarchs to Oprah
In the middle of the last decade, Ms. Zhukova shifted her focus to New York, where she already had friends from the international jet set. She and Mr. Abramovich planted a flag in Manhattan: Over time, he bought multiple townhouses on the Upper East Side to be configured into one giant mansion. (He already owned a $36 million mansion and $11 million ski chalet in Colorado, mere blips in his vast real estate portfolio.)
Privately, however, their marriage was unraveling. (Neither Ms. Zhukova nor Mr. Abramovich have spoken publicly about the cause of their split.) In August 2017, they announced that they were separating, their official statement noting that they remained “close friends, parents, and partners in the projects we developed together.” The same week, Ms. Zhukova was pictured on Mr. Geffen’s yacht near Sicily along with Diane von Furstenberg and Oprah Winfrey. She was comfortably ensconced among the United States’ own billionaires.