Mariana Guber-Gogova founded Artwin Gallery in 2012, with the aim of promoting Russian artists in Russia and abroad. In 2016, she also founded the Gogova Foundation, a non-profit organisation for the support of contemporary art and culture. Having hosted artist residencies in Russia and Azerbaijan, while also exhibiting artists at The Armory Show, Art Dubai and Comoscow, Mariana has recently decided to go back to university to gain her MBA. With so much under her belt, Gallery Girl met with Mariana to talk about Russian artists, her foundation and why she has gone back to studying.
“It was a hobby rather than a business”, says Mariana about the beginnings of Artwin Gallery, “The idea was to help young artists to show their work and organize their first shows. But with time the whole idea and the whole strategy transformed and Artwin Gallery is what you see now.” The gallery she is speaking of is a highly successful Moscow art space that actively supports the artists on its roster and participates in contemporary art fairs across the world. With a focus on Russian artists, Artwin aims to create a platform for dialogue between artists from different countries and generations, while also helping to promote understanding of the art market in Russia and Former Soviet Union Countries.
“I think it is important to promote Russian artists abroad because they are worth it”, explains Mariana, “They are worth being known all over the world, they are worth being collected by the most prominent collectors.” The gallery represents many artists at various stages in their careers. “The luckiest part of being an art professional on this particular market is the quality of artists we work with”, she adds, “Though the infrastructure is relatively underdeveloped, our advantage is that we have the best artists.”
In addition to the gallery, Mariana launched the Gogova Foundation in 2016. Beginning as a residency program for emerging artists, it was initially located in Azerbaijan, with its first residents – Ulyana Podkorytova and Vladimir Abikh – being based in the centre of the historic old city of Baku. The following year the residency relocated to the village of Bukovo in Nizhny Arkhyz in Karachay-Cherkessia, where is originally Mariana from. “It is now located in the most special place, in the mountains of Arkhyz, next to the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences”, she explains, “It combines unique scientific environment together with spectacular landscapes, historical and architectural sights.” An international expert committee selects the artists in residence, and the chosen the artist goes on to produce a project during their stay. “The idea behind this residence is not only to give to an artist a ground for inspiration and creation of an artworks but also to engage the audience of the Republic,” explains Mariana, “To increase a tourist flow, to involve the whole region into contemporary art practice.” Besides residencies, the foundation also holds exhibitions internationally, as well as hosts educational programmes for artists, critics and curators. So far an exhibition has taken place in Almaty, and another exhibition took place in collaboration with Russian and Austrian artists at the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
In the midst of her work with the foundation and the gallery, Mariana decided to go back to university to get an MBA, and she didn’t choose just any college, no, she chose the best of the best: Oxford University. “I am convinced that personal growth should never stop”, says Mariana, “So when I moved to London a few years ago I felt that it’s time for another, let’s say, step in my life.” Already having two degrees in International Finance and Art History from Russian universities, Mariana felt she needed a to take a more global outlook, so she undertook an executive MBA to help her lead international teams and organisations. “The tradition and the history of this particular place, the ceremony of initiation was a truly Harry Potter experience. You are surrounded by very old architecture, and it really gives you a very special feeling to be a part of this community”, she says of her experience, adding that the global nature of the programme means she has gained friends from across the world.
So, now that she is nearing the end of her MBA, and runs an international art gallery and foundation, what has Mariana lined up next? “I think that every woman’s life changes when she has a baby – and the same happened to me”, she explains, “So now I really hope I can balance my work and personal life the way I balance it now. I hope I can raise a healthy, successful and most of all happy child and at the same time be successful and realize my professional goals, my leadership aspirations and still be a successful female leader. These are my hopes and plans for the future!”