Empowering creativity, SARA DOUEDARI meets the founders of an art agency keen to influence contemporary art in Cyprus

In a rapidly evolving art scene, the ARTNOW agency stands out as a comprehensive resource for artists and cultural projects in Cyprus. The agency’s approach combines traditional curatorial roles with modern production and directorial strategies to support both local and international artists. From a cozy bakery turned gallery hosting an intimate exhibition of bread to a mysterious noir art book presentation set in a former vinegar warehouse, the events highlight the diverse and imaginative possibilities for art experiences in Cyprus.

Art critic Polina Dobrogaeva and art historian Anastasia Shamshurova are the masterminds behind this dynamic agency. Their vision is clear: to promote young artists and attract public attention, fostering a vibrant and interconnected art community.

Polina moved to Cyprus at the end of 2017, while Anastasia arrived at the beginning of 2020. Both originally from Russia, their roots are deeply intertwined with the diverse cultural tapestry of the former USSR. Anastasia has a mother from Ukraine and a father from Russia, yet she was born in Kazakhstan. Polina’s lineage is similarly complex: her parents are from Russia, but her grandparents also have a mix of other ethnic backgrounds.

This rich blend of nationalities, cultures and religions shapes their perspectives and informs their work in the art world. Now they have settled in Cyprus with their families.

“As a curatorial team, our primary mission is to promote young artists,” says Polina. “Every event we host and every service we offer – from exhibition solutions to art consulting – supports our goal of attracting public attention. We organise solo and group exhibitions and other cultural projects, mentor artists by assisting them with self-presentation  and promotion, from selecting open calls to residencies and collaborations. An essential part of our work involves engaging with collectors, facilitating introductions, and fostering long-term relationships between artists and their admirers.”

The Fixed Cloud exhibition

The role of a curator has evolved in recent years, and Anastasia elaborates on this transformation: “We used to think of a curator as someone who defines the theoretical framework of an art project, but in recent years, the role has expanded significantly. Today, every curator needs to be a producer, a publicist, a fundraiser, and communicate extensively with a diverse range of people”.

Through their own experience, the pair have learned that to be a good curator, you need to be personally involved in everything: from conceptualising the project to communicating with artists, sponsors and collectors, to the actual installation and dismantling of exhibits. “In the art world, every detail matters, and when dealing with creative individuals, a sensitive and attentive approach is crucial. That’s why we oversee our projects from start to finish,” adds Anastasia.

Success for them is measured not only by the growth of the artists they work with but also the strength of the art community they build. “For artists, a new exhibition is either a starting point or a milestone to transition to a new phase,” says Polina. “Our goal is to assist in this journey by creating a comfortable atmosphere and a safe environment for all participants. Additionally, success is reflected in the formation of the art community around ARTNOW. All the artists we collaborate with become friends, attend each other’s openings, participate in group exhibitions, and join collaborative drawing sessions.”

Looking to the future, the duo has ambitious plans to expand their impact on the art world. “We plan to launch an online gallery to showcase Cypriot artists on a permanent basis,” says Anastasia. “On top, we are developing an art magazine as an independent media, which currently exists as part of our agency’s website. To achieve these goals, we need the support of patrons interested in contemporary art, so we are actively working in this direction. We have several exhibition projects in development, and we are discussing a collaboration with a local art institution.”

One of ARTNOW’s current highlights is their involvement in the RE:SOURCE 2.0 exhibition, co-organised with the City Friends Club, with sponsorship from Gaijin Entertainment and the Andrey & Julia Dashin Foundation held at The Warehouse by IT Quarter in Limassol. By fostering creativity, building community and supporting artists at every stage of their careers, Polina and Anastasia are paving the way for a vibrant and inclusive future for contemporary art in Cyprus. Their work reminds us that art is not only about creation but connection, innovation and the relentless pursuit of new possibilities.