Maria Baibakova, Russia’s art world ‘It Girl.’

Aug 4th, 2013 | By | Category: Journal

Maria Baibakova, Russia’s art world ‘It Girl’, continues to make waves both sides of the Atlantic.  She graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School, no less, in May having taken 2 years out to complete it.  After completing her Masters at the Courtauld she brilliantly summed up the the marxist atmosphere that has existed there since it was run by the Soviet spy, Anthony Blunt, as ‘anti market leftist academia.’  Most western attendees of the Courtauld cannot say as much for fear of jeapardising their curatorial prospects as many museums upper staff echelons are heavily dominated by former Courtauld graduates but the clever and outspoken Baibakova does not have such worries. The New York Times ran a recent feature on what she is currently up to:-

Maria Baibakova Is Finding Her Place in the Art World

New York Times July 24 2013

Best known for Red October, a temporary, nonprofit art space she opened in an old Moscow chocolate factory, Maria Baibakova took a break to get an M.B.A.

Best known for Red October, a temporary, nonprofit art space she opened in an old Moscow chocolate factory, Maria Baibakova took a break to get an M.B.A.

On the first day of the Frieze New York art fair in May, Maria Baibakova hosted a dinner party at an Upper East Side house that was attended by billionaire collectors like Alejandro Santo Domingo and art players like Simon de Pury.

Dressed in a white and green trellis-print gown by Rodarte, she moved around the house with a winning grin, brokering introductions. At one point, she interrupted the dinner chatter to present Rashid Johnson and Sheree Hovsepian, the husband-and-wife artists whom she had commissioned to create a limited-edition print that was given to guests as a party favor.

“I’m really nervous, so forgive me,” Ms. Baibakova said, raising her Champagne flute for a toast, before nodding toward Mr. Johnson and Ms. Hovsepian. “What’s a better collaboration than a marriage?”

The fact that Ms. Baibakova is only 27 was barely remarked on that evening. As the oldest daughter of Oleg Baybakov, a Russian mining oligarch and real estate developer who is often seen with Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Ms. Baibakova has emerged as an influential player on the contemporary art scene.

She’s perhaps best known for Red October, a temporary, nonprofit art space she opened in an old Moscow chocolate factory in December 2008 through her company, Baibakov Art Projects. But Ms. Baibakova had been taking something of a break the last two years, honing her business acumen at Harvard Business School, from which she graduated in May with an M.B.A.

Just a few weeks back in the city and already her agenda was brimming with commitments. She is the strategic director for Artspace, an online art-sales company, for which she was hosting the Frieze party, and is on the boards of various museums and galleries, including the Tate Modern in London.

“If anyone is to become Russia’s Peggy Guggenheim, it is Baibakova,” an article in TheNew Yorker said in 2010.

In that sense, she is among a young generation of Russian heiresses and czarinas who are seducing the art world with their lavish spending habits, including Dasha Zhukova, 32, and Ekaterina Rybolovleva, 24, who recently bought an island in Greece and whose father,Dmitry Rybolovlev, an avid collector, is among the richest men in the world.

Yet Ms. Baibakova wasn’t born into a world of silver spoons and caviar. Raised in Moscow in the final years of the crumbling Soviet Union, she recalls standing in a bread line when she was 3. At 5, she tasted her first banana. “It took me half an hour to eat it because I would bite it off in really, really small bites to get the taste out of it,” she said.

Things looked up after the fall of the Soviet regime. Though her father had an engineering degree, he plunged into entrepreneurship, stringing together deals big and small.

But the political situation in Russia at the time seemed tenuous. So when she was 10, she and her mother, Tatiana Broushlinsky, moved to the United States and settled in Fort Lee, N.J., where she excelled first in public school and then at the prestigious Dwight-Englewood School, where she ran track and played basketball.

By the time she enrolled at Barnard, she had become passionate about art, not only majoring in art history, but also interning at Sotheby’s and the Mike Weiss Gallery in Chelsea.

She continued her arts education after college, with a one-year master’s degree in London at the Courtauld Institute of Art, which she described as “anti-market leftist academia.”

Even so, she kept one foot in the commercial gallery world, as a consultant to Sotheby’s, the Gagosian Gallery and other institutions that were trying to tap into the sizzling Russian art scene. Though she was only 21 at the time, she had the social savvy to make connections.

“They needed an in-between agent,” she said. “They didn’t have anyone older because the older folks wouldn’t have been educated in the West.”

It certainly didn’t hurt that her father’s business had flourished. By then, he had moved into real estate and made international headlines with large-scale development and heady purchases, including a $13.5 million apartment at 80 Columbus Circle.

After her master’s, she formed Baibakov Art Projects to house her consulting contracts, arts blog and special undertakings like Red October, which showcased young Russian talents such as Dasha Krotova and blue-chip Western artists like Luc Tuymans, a painter from Belgium.

And her social presence has risen, attending charity balls, art fairs and other A-list parties not only in Moscow, but also in New York and London.

For her 25th birthday, her father rented a multilevel restaurant in the meatpacking district and hired Snoop Dogg to perform. Guests included Anne Pasternak, Tobias Meyer and Jeff Koons.

Back at the Frieze party, Ms. Baibakova was clearly in her element.

“I’m excited to be back in the city,” she said, dark eyes shining, as she scanned the high-flying scene for familiar faces.

She spotted Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld. “Vlad!” she called out, as he peeled away from his date, Giovanna Battaglia, to exchange kisses. “Everything is perfect,” Mr. Roitfeld said.

Tags: art market, Baibakov Art Projects, Maria Baibakova, Moscow Chocolate Factory, Red October, Russian art market., Russian collectors

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