Close-up: Maria Baibakova

Meet the young Russian gallerist on the hunt for Shoreditch's finest
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

She's young (23), Russian, got a rouble or three (her father earned a pile in mining) and she has her own art space in Moscow (Baibakov Art Projects)... so what's the difference between Maria Baibakova and Dasha Zhukova, Roman Abramovich's girlfriend? "We're very different," says Baibakova down the line from her gallery. "My project is a personal, self-motivated one. I'm the director and chief curator with a team working with me. My programme is experimental, young and fresh. Dasha opened [the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture], but she has directors and curators who run everything... The question is not asked by Moscow journalists." Well, that's told me.

Young Maria certainly has the chops to run her own gallery space: she studied art history at the Courtauld, and acts as adviser to her father's collection of 20th-century and contemporary British and American art. For her current show Natural Wonders: New Art from London, Baibakova scoured east London's studios for work she felt represented the city: "I stay at Brown's Hotel [in Mayfair], but I spend the day in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green – I learn a lot [there]."

Heading to Moscow for Natural Wonders is work from Conrad Shawcross, Idris Khan, Mark Leckey and others – and if Eloise Fornieles' opening-night performance piece is anything to go by, Moscow gallery-goers should be prepared for, er, interaction: "On a set among tonnes of old clothing there's a scaffolding holding a cow's carcass," says Baibakova. "Eloise gets undressed and starts cutting up the cow and putting notes left by visitors under its skin." Yikes. What does Dad think? "I'm an art historian and drawn to brainy things – which [sometimes] he's not keen on."

Natural Wonders: New Art from London, is at Baibakov Art Projects, Moscow, to 5 April. For details, see