Vanessa Branson

 President and Founder of the Marrakech Biennale

Prior to founding and leading the Marrakech Biennale, Vanessa was cofounding curator with Prue O'Day of the Wonderful Fund Collection between 1999 and 2004. 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 - Riad El Fenn. With her partner she owns and runs Eilean Shona, a tidal island on the west coast of Scotland at the entrance to Loch Moidart where J M Barrie wrote the screenplay for Peter Pan. She is a trustee of the British Moroccan Society and Virgin Unite, and on the board of trustees of Global Diversity Foundation.