Out of Africa

Collector shares passion for African art
By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
-A +A
Robert Reece is homesick. Although he has lived in Granite Bay for several years, Africa will always be home to Reece and this month he is inviting the public to witness his home for themselves. A former flight manager for Pan American World Airways, Reece was transferred from Los Angeles to Nigeria in 1958. While staying in hotels throughout Nigeria, Kenya and Nairobi, Reece became transfixed by the artwork hanging in the vestibules. “One artist had an entire exhibit in the hotel I was staying at in Nairobi,” Reece said. “I fell in love with it at the beginning and admired it while I was staying there.” Wanting to know more about the art and the artist, Reece got in touch with the artist through the hotel management. “I had never seen anything like the drawings and sketches I saw and thought there could be a real mar-ket for it in the States,” Reece said. “I became their business manager and helped them sell their art and make a name for themselves.” For the next 47 years, Reece traveled back and forth between his home in Africa to the U.S. and mar-keted the African artists. As tokens of their gratitude, the artists gave Reece pieces of art, which he began collecting and is now displayed and for sale at Borders in Roseville. Border’s store manager Alex Telander said Reece’s collection was one of the most eclectic the store has ever had. “It looks like a real art installation and the pieces he chose are perfect,” Telander said. “It’s done a great job getting our customers to stop and really look at the art.” Telander said he was most impressed with Reece’s collection because of the wide range of styles and pieces from which he had to choose. “This is only a part of my collection. I kept some of my favorites and gave some to my family,” Reece said. “I’m getting on in life and wanted to share the art with the community for them to enjoy and have for themselves.” Audrey Morris who was in Roseville visiting family from Southern California was browsing the magazines for her flight home when the colorful batiks caught her eye. “I just had to come look at it closer. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Morris said. “And the masks, they’re beautiful. I feel bad that I went shopping so much and don’t have room in my suit case now.” Reece’s collection will continue to be on display for the month of January but Telander said it was a matter of days before requests to purchase the pieces started coming in. “We already have a few that there is interest to purchase,” Telander said. “It’s hard not to get attached to some of the pieces.” Telander said his favorite was a collection of sketches of cheetahs lounging in the African brush. “The artist really captured the animal’s beauty and power,” Telander said. “They look very lifelike.” The collection on display ranges from pencil and ink sketches of animals in their natural habitat on the African tundra, colorful batiks, ebony wood carved masks and watercolors of ancient cave markings. Ask Reece about any of the pieces, and he’ll conjure up old memories of the artists and their work. Looking at the drawings of leopards and cheetahs, Reece remembers going with the artists on safari to capture the animals up close and personal. “They were right there,” Reece said. “Close enough for you to reach out and touch them and they were so beautiful. It was always so exciting and magnificent to go and watch the artists on safari.” At 85, Reece’s eyes still light up with a child-like sense of awe and wonder when he describes his home in Africa. Reece vividly remembers going on a bit of an adventure with artist Marigold Evans to hunt down cave drawings for her to sketch and later paint as replicas. “We had to crawl through rock caves and it was very narrow,” Reece said. “We would be gone for hours and my job was to hold the flashlight while she sketched. It was like watching history be discovered.” Know and go: Robert Reece’s collection of African wildlife art will be on display until the end of January. Pieces are available for purchase and vary in price from $50 to $1,000. Where: Borders, 2030 Douglas Blvd. Roseville For more information or 797-0421