Vanessa Branson is a champion of global cultural and ecological initiatives. As President and Founder of the Marrakech Biennale (formerly AIM Biennale) she is responsible for North Africa’s only trilingual arts festival, an event now entering its 6th edition – comprising visual art, literature and film programs featuring acclaimed international and Moroccan artists. In October 2014, Vanessa Branson was awarded the Royal distinction of Officer of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite, at the occasion of the ceremony inaugurating he Mohammed VI Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art in Rabat. This Royal honour is in recognition of the contribution she has made to the Moroccan cultural scene and, in particular, for her efforts in establishing Marrakech as a richly diverse and eclectic platform for the arts.
Prior to this, between 1999 and 2004, she was co-founding curator with Prue O'Day of the Wonderful Fund Collection. This involved 15 people investing in the fund with which Prue and Vanessa purchased works of contemporary art to reflect the pulse of the times. The idea was that ownership would be shared but that the purchasing would be done by Branson and O'Day. Over the next five years, the pair visited artists' studios, galleries, degree shows and art fairs in Britain, America and Europe looking for as broad a spectrum of work as possible. It was then exhibited at the first Marrakech Biennale at the Museum of Marrackech. The Wonderful Fund Collection was also exhibited at the newly refurbished Pallant House Gallery, Chichester in 2006.
Her other cultural projects have included the establishment and co-direction – along with Prue O’Day and Anatol Orient – of the Portobello Arts Festivals in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
Active as an entrepreneur, she founded the Vanessa Devereux Gallery (1986–91) in London, where she showed a number of emerging artists including William Kentridge’s UK debut exhibition.
In 2002, along with her business partner Howell James CBE, she developed an ancient crumbling palace in the centre of Marrakech into a beautiful boutique hotel - El Fenn.
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