Money & Me: 'Sometimes I go crazy by spending $10,000'

Skaya Art Agency owner Anastasia Kopijevski has invested in two Banksy artworks and property in the south of France

Anastasia Kopijevski, owner of Skaya Art Agency in Dubai, says she got her first job in a bridal shop at the age of 19. Pawan Singh / The National
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Art consultant Anastasia Kopijevski was born to Russian parents on an Estonian military base and now lives in Dubai, where she owns Skaya Art Agency.

She was introduced to art by her father, an avid collector she accompanied to galleries and antique shops.

Roles with a credit union and investment and client asset manager in the US revealed art’s relationship with finance and prompted Ms Kopijevski to join a curating course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

She ran a luxury furniture showroom in Miami, opened another specialising in decor for high-net-worth individuals and hotels before joining New York’s fashion industry.

Ms Kopijevski relocated to Dubai in 2016 and founded Skaya after organising a successful exhibition for an artist friend who had been abandoned by an agent.

Together with her sister, Natalia, an art curator, they develop promising artists alongside exhibition planning, collection management, and advisory services.

Ms Kopijevski, 42, lives in Jumeirah Golf Estates with her husband and children, aged three and five.

Did money influence your childhood?

My father was a pilot but left the army quite young and became an entrepreneur.

His main business, transport, started with lorries and ended up with planes. The biggest account was the UN. There were also private jets; the Estonian president flew with him.

We would be considered a rich family back then. It was upper middle class really, because I’ve seen rich since – in the US, South of France and here. My parents were able to send me to study in the US.

How did you get started in commerce?

I am the oldest and dad raised me to be tough. I would get nice things, we would travel and dine, but I had to earn extra money.

His office had a kitchen. During school holidays, me and my sister would buy products, cook and sell lunches. The end of the day, we returned the money we borrowed and the profit was ours.

Before that, I was selling chewing gum on the playground and when I transferred to private school, I was strong in maths and architectural (technical) drawing. Kids were rich, so I made money helping with homework and tests.

What was your first job?

Around 19, during college in Florida, I worked at a bridal shop, making $7 an hour.

I then got married (first time) quite young, borrowed money from dad and we bought a laundromat, built it up and sold for a profit. Then we opened a furniture store. I was still in university.

I was then a mortgage broker, during the boom right before the real estate crash.

How did Dubai happen?

I started dating my current husband. He was in New York, working for IBM. I took a chance to go to Dubai with him, to check it out.

I started building Skaya with different packages according to client needs, out of pure passion for a couple years. Now, there are different ways we can make money … sales, representation, art events.

What is your wealth building strategy?

We invest in real estate, I have stocks, cryptocurrency – I lost probably 50 per cent, then again I didn’t because I didn’t sell.

I see myself making money on luxury goods. I have invested in my watch, my bags, my art and I know these appreciate. I never lost on something I love and know I can sell.

Sometimes I go crazy by spending $10,000, but I also see people dropping half a million dollars on one weekend somewhere. I try to buy something I either need or has the potential to grow in price.

And I don’t like to overpay. I can get stingy on the little things, maybe coffee somewhere is too expensive; I need to understand why it costs that much.

How do you drive an artist's value?

There is a way of calculating potential and growth.

I try to place my artists with a gallery where other artists will bring value to their work, make sure they participate in certain shows.

A lot of artists don’t know how to represent themselves and start to lose the will. I want to give them that taste (of success), a push, or a sale. This is the most rewarding thing about my job, that I give the craving to continue and believe in themselves. I sold one sculpture for $200,000.

Do you collect art?

Yes. I bought two Banksy pieces in France. One I will sell, one I will keep. Usually these sell from around €8,000 ($8,701) each.

I don’t spend too much; the most expensive would be around $10,000. I think of anything under $20,000 to $30,000 as affordable. I’m not at that stage where I can afford a $1 million piece.

I invest in artists I believe in. And I cherish pieces I got from my father. I would like to do the same for our children.

What are your best investments?

Finding the right people, freelancers I team up with for projects, making sure they are compensated correctly – that is my biggest investment … people and my business.

I love to work with the young and smart. When I see potential, I try to push and give them freedom to express themselves.

We also bought a summer house in the south of France. It is our retirement plan and probably one of our smartest moves. We rent that out.

When I moved from Miami to New York in my late twenties, there was one point I could afford to eat only hot and sour soup for $2 a day
Anastasia Kopijevski, owner of Skaya Art Agency

Does what people splurge on art surprise you?

Not surprise, it really excites me, gives me belief I can do more. I am obsessed by success stories, my favourite thing in my free time is listening to podcasts of somebody changing their life or changing life for others.

My dad liked luxury – he had two Harley Davidsons, collected old planes. He would tell me there is no such thing as spending too much, but there is such a thing as making too little.

How do you feel about money?

It doesn’t like to sit, it needs to be moving. That can be a business investment, bringing joy to your family, maybe to help somebody.

Even though I have a bit stashed, I like to move money. I expect money to give satisfaction. That is why I spoil myself or spoil other people. Money should bring good at the end of the day.

Any low financial moments?

When I moved from Miami to New York in my late twenties, there was one point I could afford to eat only hot and sour soup for $2 a day. New York is super expensive. Also my father went bankrupt and I was trying to make sure my brother continued tennis lessons, so would send money.

It made me strong, a survivor, but you need to understand that you never know what else can happen.

What do you enjoy spending on?

Supporting young artists. The same in fashion, especially when I travel, I find local designers and buy their clothes.

I love my car, a G-Wagon Mercedes, and rare Hermes bags and like high fashion. I can get a little bit carried away, but I believe that if I had a great couple of months, worked hard, I need to pat myself on the back.

Updated: December 08, 2023, 6:02 PM