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40 Under 40 Europe 2018

Maria Bukhtoyarova

5 September 2018

London, UK

What inspired you to set up the Gaia Art Foundation in 2014?

After supporting various artists and institutions individually – including Tate Modern, the Serpentine Galleries, and the Kunsthalle Basel – it became apparent to me that there was a need to create a single platform that would allow for patronage dedicated to diverse cultural initiatives, and encourage multicultural dialogue through visionary artistic practices, partnerships, independent projects and supporting production. That’s why I formed Gaia Art Foundation (GAF).

In Greek mythology, Gaia was the mother of all life. Does that reflect how you think about art/the arts?

Yes, it absolutely does. Gaia was an ancient great deity: as well as being the mother of the Titans she was also the personification of Earth; the very soil for seeds of ideas to be planted, grow, blossom and flourish into titanic deeds. Art is a great tool with which to disseminate these ideas and ideals – it is a universal language. It took me a while to find a name, but in the end I am very happy with it.

Which other foundations did you look to as models in starting out?

There were quite a few foundations and various institutions I looked at. I also had conversations with people whose vision I find inspiring. You can learn a lot by observing what others do, sharing ideas and having dialogues. Of course there is plenty of room for improvement; one must constantly seek to engage with a discourse that will help an organisation to develop. Ideally a foundation should have a consistent, long-term vision, yet be able to adapt to various circumstances by having a flexible strategy.

The foundation has supported public art, publishing and curatorial projects in recent years. Which projects have you found most rewarding?

I don’t want to name favourites, as I don’t want it to be about my own taste, but each project has definitely taught me something. I do love being involved from the outset, understanding the ideas and principles that drive any project that GAF supports. In the end, what is important is that, through the support of the foundation, cultural discourse is encouraged. I believe that the various projects GAF has supported in recent years are relevant to the landscape of contemporary culture and have encouraged positive change. I find that to be most rewarding. I hope that GAF has enabled those it supported to flourish and develop their work further, be they institutions or individual artists.

How do you see the foundation developing in coming years?

Thinking about the future, the foundation aims to identify, highlight and discuss key concerns and developments that might have a lasting effect for the future of our society. GAF is also conscious of environmental issues and particularly interested in scientific and technological research and initiatives that cultural practitioners can engage with, as well as encouraging cross-disciplinary collaborations.

GAF’s ambition is to create a focused programme to foster collaboration, incubate ideas and support the development of new projects that can make a positive impact and lasting contribution on our society. On a personal note I would love to see GAF as a catalyst for ideas, a platform that attracts various artists, thinkers, scientists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians, where they can collaborate, debate and come up with ways both creative and practical to enable and encourage positive change in our society.

Besides funding, what can the collaboration with private foundations bring to public institutions?

A network, ideas and practical knowledge.

Does your own taste as a collector relate closely to the work of the foundation?

No, collecting is very separate from the work of GAF. That was one of the reasons to set up a foundation, so it could develop organically, independent of my personal taste in art. The projects GAF supports, encourages and will soon initiate should establish the foundation’s own identity, and not be in any way influenced by my taste as a collector.

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