VIMA DONNA September 2009

September 2009

Interview: Tonia Makra

Maria Demetriades

From the many symbolisms associated with the mythical figure of Medusa, the well-known gallery owner has kept those of power and female acumen. This is borne out by her 30-year career among the ‘beasts’ of art, as well as her own life story.

At the young age of 19, thirty years ago, Maria Demetriades opened “Medusa” which remains among the major galleries of Athens. Her early steps were supported by such legendary figures of Greek art as Alexander Iolas, Takis, Yannis Tsarouchis and Alexis Akrithakis. Today “Medusa” represents both older (Mario Prassinos, the sculptor Costas Koulentianos) and contemporary artists (Yorgos Rorris, Nakis Tastsioglou, Marigo Kassi, Maria Vlanti, Miltos Michalidis, and others).

Born and bred in Kolonaki, she lives and works in the same parts where she grew up, between the Maraslios School and Xenokratous St. The thirtieth anniversary of “Medusa” finds her in “a good phase of her life”, dividing her week between Athens and her house in Paros, and frequently taking her boat around the smaller Cyclades together with her dog, Karina, and her ca, Moutsos. This mixture of town and country provides balance and helps her move on in life with confidence, remaining the beautiful woman with the proud stance she always was.

— How did you become involved in Art?

I was influenced by my mother’s sister, the painter Maria Spentza, in whose house I always ended up after school, reading books on art and meeting her artist friends—Yannis Moralis, Yorgos Mavroidis, Nikos Nikolaou, etc. Even as a schoolgirl I used to dream of the gallery I would have one day… So when I got to be 19 I decided to go ahead with my vision as long as I could. For at the time I thought I would not live long. Today, on the contrary, I believe I’ll live to be seven thousand years old!

— What triggered the dynamic course of the gallery as well as your own ?

My collaboration with Alexander Iolas led into contacts with foreign collectors, who make up 50% of my clientele today. My relationship with Takis changed my life, and the same is true of Alexis Akrithakis. Thanks to these ‘beasts’ I had before me I surpassed myself, shed my phobias, acquired confidence, learned not to compromise and proceed according to my own choices.

— How easily can a professional transaction evolve into something more personal?

All my associates make up the main part of my life; they are my friends and personal relationships. With most of them we started together with their first solo show, and they are indispensable to me. The same goes with collectors with whom, as a rule, we develop a personal contact after their second or third purchase. After 30 years, I know what things are worth fighting for and what I must give up. It is no good investing in worn-out relationships, even if the loss is often hard to bear.

— Is this true also of personal relationships, or even great loves?

Yes, once the circle is full, the relationship ends. I have experienced some great loves, but I never got to the point of deciding to stay with someone for life. I used to go for partners who were quite a bit older, perhaps because I learned from them.

— If you were to fall in love again, do you think you’d go for similar ages?

I don’t know. For the time being, I am waiting for someone to attract my interest. I was never a hunter myself—on the contrary, I tend to hide myself. To be honest, love has never been my sole priority, nor do I suffer in times of solitude. My work compensates for the absence of a warm hug. So I never push things, and I enjoy the things I have achieved in my life.

— Achievements concerning life or art?

Personal achievements, mainly, such as the house in Paros, in the mountain area of Lefkes, where I spend half the week all year round. Even if I have to spend all day on the phone or the computer on gallery business, I am in nature. Athens turns me away these days; when I have as little as an hour of free time, I go crazy. In Paros, on the contrary, I am never bored: I do the garden, and I have an old boat in which I travel to the nearby islands and rediscover human contact.

— So Paros has introduced you to things unknown to a city dweller?

Indeed, my days there are good, I go out very rarely and I’ve gradually taught myself how to cook, starting with the products of my own garden; I know make jams, cordials, bread. If I’d stayed in Athens, I am sure I would feed myself exclusively with takeaways. It all begins from having my own piece of land. This different pace has helped me reconnect to myself. Moreover, it opened new roads for the gallery, since Paros has a colony of foreign collectors, art lovers and intellectuals who buy works or commission them specifically for their houses.

— These goods of maturity are all very well, but aren’t you troubled with the passage of time?

Luckily, I never depended on whatever looks I may have. I was never regular with hairdressers, and I only do the basics. However, I do try to eat properly: I don’t eat meat, preferring salads and lentils instead. I also walk and swim quite a lot. The only problem is that I smoke. Of course no one likes getting older, but I prefer the Maria of today. I live more intensely and I only spend time on meaningful things. I honestly feel justified in having respected my own needs.