The Girl With the Butterfly Tattoo Cover: Dasha Zhukova on Her New Garage Magazine

Damien Hirst's cover for Garage, with peel-off butterfly sticker
(Courtesy of Garage)

"Welcome to the world of Garage magazine" is how Dasha Zhukova ends the preface to the first issue of her new publishing venture, and what an unusual world it is.

Imagine a zine put out by a creative artand fashion fan and her clique of friends — only the zine is on the finest magazine stock, the fan is a beautiful Russian heiress (and girlfriend of one of the world's richest men), and her friends include the kin of the rich and famous (Barbara Bush, Peter Brant III, Max Snow), the girlfriend of Larry Gagosian, and some of the best-known artists of their time. The advertisers, then, include fashion brands like Prada and Balenciaga along with Christie's and Pace Beijing. And yet the magazine is clearly the work of a let's-put-on-a-show enthusiast — an amateuse, as the French would say.

The best thing about the debut issue, as it happens, is also the buzziest: a cover by Damien Hirst (one of three by different artists) that shows one of his butterfly designs tattooed artfully around a model's vagina, and then covered — for newsstand decorum — by a butterfly-shaped decal. (Shauna Taylor, the 23-year-old girl who sat for tattoo artist Mo Coppoletta, has said it was an extraordinarily painful experience, but that now shewill be the first woman who can say she gave "birth through a Damien Hirst artwork.") Other artists who created tattoos for the magazine's "Inked" feature, having them permanently rendered on the flesh of willing models, include John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, and Raymond Pettibon. (Click the slide show at left to see them all.)

With the inaugural issue hitting newsstands across the United States and Britain today — and with a Van Leuwen ice cream truck slated to wander fashion week events, distributing copies — ARTINFO spoke to Zhukova about her admiration for Tina Brown, the magazine's business model, and the thinking behind that Hirstcover.

Your Damien Hirst tattoo cover has caused a stir, and inside the magazine, you have published an interview you conducted with Tina Brown, the famed magazine editor who once said that every magazine should have a soupcon of bad taste. What drew you to interview her?

 Tina Brown was an easy choice. Her work at Tatler, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and now Newsweek has been legendary. She has changed journalism many times over and I wanted to celebrate that in Garage's inaugural issue.
Are there any lessons you have taken from Brown's editorial style?

We can all learn to be more fearless and willing to take risks.
What does Hirst think about the reaction to the cover? He must be pretty thrilled.
I haven't had a chance to talk to Damien since we leaked the cover, but I'd imagine he's got his hands full with 11 shows opening in January! I hope he's happy — we're definitely very excited.

Tattoo art is very much in vogue these days, with Dr. Lakra receiving a Drawing Center exhibition earlier this year and the Arratia, Beer Gallery setting up a temporary tattoo parlor during Berlin's Gallery Weekendto ink designs by famous artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Kiki Smith. Did any of these provide inspiration for the "Inked" series?

The contemporary art community is beginning to regard tattoo art more seriously. I am not sure where it is going, though. It may join graffiti/street/urban art in its contentious relationship with fine art.Nevertheless, I am drawn to tattoo art and the narratives behind the people who commit to these permanent markings.
Where did you find the models? 

It was not easy. We cast the models in a variety of ways, from adverts on Facebook and Craigslist to adverts pinned on notice boards in art schools, colleges, social clubs, and gay bars in New York City, London, and L.A. We did not disclose the full nature of the project. We could not email designs; only show them in person or via Skype. This way we really "met" everyone who was curious about the project.

How were they matched up with their tattoos?

We also picked them for their reactions and relationship to the tattoo/artist. AJ in particular was a super fan of Pettibon — his sheer enthusiasm for the artist was inspiring. Shauna we picked for a number of reasons. She was very enthusiastic about the tattoo, was not concerned about the pain, and her dad was a tattoo artist so we knew shewas getting good advice at home on how to deal with the pain. She also has such a carefree attitude to the world, she does not care what anyoneelse thinks — she has a true punk spirit. We were incredibly lucky to find such willing participants.

Were any of the designs especially coveted?

Damien's back piece was especially coveted. We must have had 50 applicants or more. John Baldessari was also a favorite.

What did you think when you first heard about Hirst's design for the vagina tattoo? How did he come up with the idea?

We were shocked when we first heard Damien's idea. I wasn't sure how many people would be willing to mark such an intimate area, but when we saw the design, it was so beautiful and simple we knew lots of people would love it.
The Hirst tattoo cover has already gotten Garage banned by England's W.H. Smith bookstore. Can we expect to see covers that are more controversial like that in the future?

It's possible, but I cannot say for sure. Our aim is not to be controversial; instead, we want to create a magazine that is relentless in its attempt to see publishing as a set of expressionistic possibilities, not a fixed medium.

The publishing world is swamped with magazines of every conceivable variety, and many more publications have popped up on line. There is, inmany ways, a glut of media. What gap do you see Garage magazine filling?
Garage is not exact in its content. Unlike most magazines, we do not have a specific editorial model, you will not see a "fashion" or "design" issue from us — it's too formulaic. Garage is about providing aunique viewing experience. Admittedly, it is a magazine, but it really functions as an object, a space for ambitious projects to flourish, which is why the first issue has three different covers.
Why, in the age of the iPad, did you decide to create another paper magazine?

I love the iPad. I use mine every day. It's very convenient in our fast-paced modern age. However, one cannot gain the same experience fromreading magazines on an iPad because they lack physical presence. Garage is nearly 300 pages at 11 x 14 inches; I'm not convinced this experience will translate to a 6-by-9-inch flat screen.
How do you plan to make an ad-supported newsstand magazine profitable ata time when advertisers are hesitant to spend, and increasingly going online when they do?

I think we have to focus on developing innovative content, creating a unique viewing experience, and collaborating with the best and brightestin fashion and art. This, we hope, will attract a sophisticated demographic, the type of people advertisers want to reach. I know that I'm over simplifying here, but at the core, that is how I understand this business. That being said, we are also launching our online platform on September 8th, It will have a great feature called STOPS — which is basically an interactive sartorialist network for our readers.

You were at Pop magazine before this,where you began experimenting with the crossovers between fashion and art, and now Garage seems to be a distillation of what you picked up from that project. What do you find exciting about the interaction between art and fashion these days? Where do you look for editorial ideas?

I think it's natural for people to segregate art and fashion based on previous ideals of art vs. craft, but now it seems both have evolved to the point where that boundary is already blurred. We're just bringing light to that harmony. Garage has a great editorial team that equally encompasses both of these fields — they really bring great ideas to the table.

What kind of relationship will the magazine have with, the new online art sale site you are working with, or your Garage Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow?

The magazine, both nominally and conceptually, is wholly linked to the Garage CCC. Both are committed to spreading contemporary ideas to new audiences, as well as instigating collaborations from the world’s best and brightest. As far as goes, the two projects are unrelated.
Following your Tina Brown interview, who are some other figures you want to talk to for Garage?
You'll have to wait and see!