My way: how I became an art dealer

Life is a mesmerizing tapestry, woven with threads of serendipity and surprise.

My way: how I became an art dealer

Life is a mesmerizing tapestry, woven with threads of serendipity and surprise.

 It unfurls before us, offering countless avenues for self-discovery. The true essence lies in our ability to discern these opportunities, for none of us truly knows our destined path. Sometimes, as we strive toward a particular goal, we find ourselves in the most unexpected of places.

Where did it all begin?

My love affair with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began at the tender age of three (You might wonder, “What do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have to do with all of this?” To find out, you’ll have to read the whole story). I could watch those three movies in succession, marveling at the quality of those costumes — so supple, so intricate. What’s more, the actors inside those formidable shells executed astonishing stunts. To my young eyes, those diminutive Turtles seemed utterly alive. Even now, as I revisit those films, a part of me clings to that belief. The sets, the ambience, their nimbleness with nunchucks — it all captivated me. The plot played a secondary role; I was simply enthralled by the dynamic spectacle on the screen, a testament to the dedication of countless specialists. Only later did I discover that those turtle costumes were groundbreaking for their time, and the actors behind them were true kung fu masters, honing their craft for years. That’s when I realized I was a visual enthusiast, someone who reveled in gazing at marvelous things for hours on end.

Imagined heroes. Four turtles mutants together.

As I ventured into adolescence, I learned to create beauty myself, thriving in an environment that fostered artistic expression. Our punk clique was a diverse mix of creative souls — artists, musicians, hailing from various cities. This wasn’t the punk scene one might imagine; we frequently gathered to embellish someone’s leather jacket or backpack, to craft unique belts, and the pre-concert preparations were pure artistry. We’d assemble at someone’s place, don unconventional attire, adorn ourselves with spikes and mohawks, ensuring no two looked alike. You might find it hard to believe, but in Moscow of the 2000s, acquiring high-quality non-conformist clothing was quite a challenge. We often had to make our own hair dyes to achieve bolder shades. I thrived in this world of vibrant colors, music, and camaraderie, where everyone sought their own path. Even to this day, I maintain connections with many of those friends, each with a different life journey. Some became renowned microsurgeons, delicately tinkering within people’s minds, while others became inventive engineers, or pursued music. As for me, I found my way into the realm of art.

Punk style jacket with metal rivets. One sleeve of jacket in red another in blue. On the bottom title "Antidote". On the back application with smyley red cartoon devil with lowered underpants and showed his shiny naked ass.

These micro-moments shaped me as an individual, broadening my perspective to see beauty in the terrifying, the absurd, and even the grotesque. I became attuned to the minutiae of cabinet handle designs, in architecture, and oddly enough, I developed a fascination for the irregular holes in cheese, finding their quirky shapes oddly intriguing. Yet, amidst all this appreciation for aesthetics, a yearning persisted to refine and perfect. When I acquired an item, I couldn’t simply use it; a ritual of tuning, a subtle alteration, or even wearing it inside-out was obligatory. After all, the interior color of a T-shirt often held more allure than its exterior. The path seemed clear — keep forging ahead, unwavering. However, life, as it often does, veered into the practical, away from one’s desires. Obligatory studies, marriage perhaps, influenced by familial expectations. Perhaps that’s why my career as an art dealer took an unexpected turn and began later in life under rather peculiar circumstances.

The first experience of an art exhibition

About a decade ago, a friend in the art dealing business asked me to stand in for her at an exhibition as she urgently needed surgery. I managed the exhibition quite effortlessly (thanks to her meticulous preparation) and even made some sales. Sadly, my friend never fully recovered, and she offered me the chance to continue her work, complete with a roster of struggling artists but not a single client. Eager and full of enthusiasm, I embraced the opportunity. Within just two months, I was organizing exhibitions in a prominent business center, and within six months, at a trendy restaurant. In this short span, I cultivated numerous connections and secured major clients. I relished this new role, but it was far from the art I now promote and sell. It was more like mass-market obscura, catering to the whims of an audience oblivious to true artistic subtlety. My clients included politicians (devoid of taste or artistic insight) commissioning colossal portraits of themselves as Napoleon on horseback, entire fleets of Chinese buyers snapping up painted birch trees and “mori” landscapes, or women in their forties nitpicking at a fallen petal on a canvas. It brought in considerable income, but I yearned to engage with genuine art, to be akin to the dealers of Yves Klein or Salvador Dali, shaping the tastes and thoughts of our time.

At that juncture, I had a small pool of artists who exclusively delved into contemporary art forms. I even made modest attempts to showcase their works alongside traditional paintings of ballerinas and landscapes. However, these works often evoked shock and repulsion among my clients rather than genuine interest.

Photo from back of Cyprus art Gallery owner - Masha Karmanova.

Moving to Cyprus

As fate would have it, everything changed thanks to a whimsical twist of events. My husband and I had been toying with the idea of emigrating for about five years, but the notion had lingered languidly, lacking any compelling push. Our vacation to Cyprus took an unexpected turn when COVID-19 caught us off guard. My husband decided to stay and explore this island, while I hopped on the last flight back to our children, household, and my business. None of us imagined then that we’d be apart for a whopping three months; it all seemed transient and destined to resolve quickly.

After the initial two weeks, we made the decision to relocate permanently. I began pondering what I’d like to pursue in this new setting, realizing that perhaps art wasn’t my true calling, given the lack of growth and my inability to leap to a higher plane. I announced my departure from the art scene to my artists, wished them well, and embarked on a mission to save the tiny Mediterranean island from pollution by establishing an eco-friendly tire recycling plant. I had a business plan, after all! I sourced suppliers, delved into tire recycling fractions, and even connected with people eager to buy colorful rubber crumbs by the ton!

But then, His Majesty Serendipity played another of his capricious pranks on me. When we shipped all our belongings, along with our car, in a container, I discovered upon arrival that my agent had sent his brother, Tony, as his replacement. It was Tony who asked that fateful question: “What do you do?”

Naturally, I launched into an exposition of my new project, ardently disavowing any lingering desire to dabble in art. However, Tony requested assistance in organizing an exhibition for his friend — a painter. And, oh, that piqued my interest. The challenge of curating something extraordinary amidst strict constraints on mobility, limits on gatherings, and the like, took precedence over my previous convictions. We took the plunge.

There was no extravagant publicity, no hordes of photographers; the artist himself battled severe depressive schizophrenia, a torment that echoed in his work. Yet, surprisingly, it all worked. Despite the odds, especially the bans on assembling crowds, our modest studio was teeming with people, with a queue spilling onto the street. The artist tirelessly narrated his artistry to each fresh wave of visitors, explaining the nuanced distinctions between one depressively black stroke and another. And I observed. I observed and became increasingly convinced that I truly loved this. Even in such adverse conditions, if we could produce something remarkable and compelling that drew people in, then it was important, something worth pursuing.

Cyprus folk look into art pieces in Hauteart space.

And what’s happening now?

Now I have my own little gallery in the heart of Limassol. Visitors flock to our exhibitions from other cities. We engage in exciting events and collaborations with several tuning ateliers, crafting car designs, creating furniture, and gaining invitations to European exhibitions for both me and my artists. I brought over a few of my “unsellable” artists, and they enjoy great popularity among European audiences. But it’s too early to draw conclusions. I am simply delighted to be pursuing my passion, and I am immensely grateful that it’s working out for me.

P.S. The plan for the eco-friendly tire recycling plant still lies on my desk, patiently awaiting its moment.

Subscribe to my gallery’s social networks to support my art journey: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram LinkedIn.

Get updates about our next exhibitions

    We will process the personal data you have supplied in accordance with our privacy policy.