The One Off Sculpture Garden at Rosslyn Lone Tree is a work in progress which will doubtless remain so always, though now more than ever. It is decidedly unfinished and work on its basic construction is expected to continue for another six months or so. We beg your indulgence.
Begun in April 2019, the garden was born of a desire to supply a ‘salad bowl’ for our visiting Colobus Monkey troop. The subsequent decision to plant 133 indigenous trees and shrubs to encourage birds, bees and butterflies necessitated the felling of 60 Eucalyptus trees. Only a few remnant Eucalyptus trees remain. The final piece in the puzzle came in the form of a financial windfall from environmental enthusiast and art collector, Vivien Mather. And the project to plant a garden to show sculpture took flight.
Next the team suggested the idea of an inaugural exhibition to Marc Van Rampelberg. Aside from being a loyal friend and supporter of One Off, Marc has a history of collecting art in Kenya dating back to the 80s. At the time he was the in-house curator and long-term gallery partner of Ruth Schaffner, the owner of Gallery Watatu which was the leading gallery in its day. This gave him access to extensive collectables and he was able to acquire some of the most significant works produced in Kenya. Of particular importance are his works sculpted by Samuel Wanjau Sr., which we saw as being essential for any sculptural review. It goes without saying that these are unobtainable now, the artist being deceased. It became evident that any serious show of sculpture from the region would require a number of loaned works from Marc’s collection. Marc also brought his superb taste, design skills, attention to detail and spatial awareness to the project. He was a shoe-in for the task of curator for our first ever sculptural review in the new garden. Thom Ogonga was asked to contextualize the historical event.
In conversation with Marc and Thom we deduced that an exhibition, purely of sculpture on this scale, has never been embarked upon in the region. Marc’s curatorial ethos was to try to be as inclusive as possible and to push the ‘sculptural envelope’ as wide as possible. To this end, the exhibition encompassed traditional forms in wood, stone and metal but it also included ‘the human figure as object’ in the form of a mime artist. It included glass, paper and mosaic. It looked at some two-dimensional works as three-dimensional sculptures. It attempted to include the most significant sculptors working in Kenya today and it tried to reach back to their influences and origins. It also displayed works by some younger artists or less well-known players. Naturally many of the works were not weather proof, so the curatorial exercise extended far beyond the garden and into all the gallery spaces at both the main exhibition venue and in our pop-up space at Rosslyn Riviera (now closed).
Certainly, there were some significant omissions in our offering, which we hope to address as we fine-tune our reviews in the future. As Kenyan art becomes increasingly sought after in the international markets, our sculptors have an increasing number of commitments, disallowing them from exhibiting locally. Two exceptions are Peterson Kamwathi and Cyrus Kabiru, who have both shown with the best of the best internationally but who remain firm in their commitment to continue to honour their home audience and to remember their roots. Special thanks to them and to all the other artists who fall into this category.
The One Off Sculpture Garden will always grow and change. We hope you will drop by to enjoy it and will return often to absorb the atmosphere and the sculptures in the ever-altering garden.
As curator of a Fine Art Gallery for over 25 years, I've met some highly original people and found myself in some unusual situations. I hope you enjoy my day to day adventures of running One Off Gallery in Nairobi, Kenya.