Kenyan Artist Anthony Russell
As an art collector and African conservationist, it’s no surprise that I get giddy over pieces and people who are in it for the long run to protect wildlife and wildlands, cultures and climate. Enter Cottar’s Safaris, one of only nine Long Run Global Ecosphere Retreats in the world; their non-profit foundation, Cottar’s Wildlife Conservation Trust (CWCT); and their lifelong family friend and internationally renewed and collected contemporary Kenyan artist, Anthony Russell.
Anthony will SOMETIMES open his Nairobi home and studio to SOME collectors and guests of Cottar’s, and I was one of the lucky few who was in the right place at the right time (just know, a typical experience at Anthony’s is for a fee as drinks are poured, food is enjoyed, and a donation is made to CWCT as well). He was in Kenya, I was in Kenya - at Cottar’s, where several years ago my husband bought a piece of Anthony’s (when Anthony’s work at Cottar’s is sold, a portion of the profits gets donation to CWCT); and as just mentioned, I am also a collector … the ultimate trifecta to make our impromptu salon manifest.
My meeting was scheduled to be an hour-long morning chat with a good cuppa (Kenya grows some deliciously aromatic coffee) and it turned into a seven-hour organically unfolding conversation only cut short so I didn’t miss my departing flight from Kenya to the USA. Every few hours I’d check in with my hosts and cancel the next set of appointments on the calendar for that day. When life hands me a rare moment in time that I know will never be able to be replicated, nothing else matters!
As I am obsessed with some of the more off-limit countries on the continent, I was slack-jawed to see some of Anthony’s personal collection of pieces from Mali, South Sudan, DRC … it’s an absolute shame as some of the countries hardest to get to have some of the deepest tribal traditions and most remarkable art and culture … and I want to experience it and collect it (in person; I prefer to buy while meeting with the artists in their countries, so I’ll have to wait on those). He has contacts in places people don’t even know exist, and some of those bits and bobs end up as part of his coveted collage-like creations. I am also obsessed with Kenyan jewelry designer Adele Dejak and pointed out that two of the rings I wear on my right hand featured on one of the collectable guitars that he has transformed into collectable art.
We talked about people we know in common, and people he is friends with or who also collect his work that I’ve only ever “met” while dancing at their concert, sitting through their films, shopping for their clothes, or reading about their work in publications. The brainstorming began and projects started to flow from our mutual desire to support those doing the hard work on the ground in Africa to conserve, preserve, uplift and enable.
We spoke about his conservation focus, and I learned more about an art/film project he did to raise awareness and funds for lions. We spoke about his raw and rebellious ways, and I was shown architectural designs, book collabs, and bodies of work that showcase the sensual. We spoke about his interest in doing more collaborative commissions whereby people stay longer in Nairobi and work with him in his studio to create an original piece, and I have already booked my time and have been obsessing over porcupine quills, ostrich feathers, fish bones, and photo reels to include ever since (again, something that will in the long run help to benefit CWCT). That’s one of the many reasons I love contemporary art: meeting with and collaborating with the artist. I asked Anthony if I could record him speaking about the piece we have, which you can watch below, and I’ll be documenting the creative process next year as well, so keep following along and stay tuned for more! And it’s a two way street; as soon as I got home I took a video to send to Anthony showing him where his piece hangs in our home, hoping that my feeling of being so honored to have one of his pieces was somewhat reciprocated when seeing where if hung between other African artists.
And from that magical moment of meeting, our plotting and planning has persisted, and now, we’re delighted to bring to you a new way of acquiring art and funding conservation: Cottar’s Crypto for Conservation Art Auction of five individual pieces (shown above), one each of the Big Five, that Anthony made throughout a twenty-year period with photos that were taken in the same area that Cottar’s is located, the purchase of which will see a portion of profits being sent directly to CWCT. If you want to learn more about the auction, please register for our kick-off webinar on Thurs, July 8 at 10am MDT, and in the meantime, you can also watch a quick video of Melissa Jordan (below), seasoned blockchain expert, crypto trader and NFT advisor based in the United States whom we are working with on this auction, explaining more about crypto and the art space. If you are already crypto savvy, feel free to start following Anthony's Foundation.app now. If you haven't yet received our newsletter with complete details of how the Cottar's Crypto for Conservation Art Auction will work, you can read more here. And if you have any questions on any of the above, feel free to contact Brooke at Brooke@KarooConsulting.com.