Be Inspired: Interview with Christian Furr – Curator of the Most Ambitious Exhibition of Tiger Inspired Artwork at Hotel Cafe Royal

Be Inspired: Jacki Tsai, Shauna Richardson, Lauren Baker, Dan Baldwin, and Otto Schade – just a few of the international artists to participate in the upcoming high-profile art exhibition to raise awareness and much needed funds for the fight in saving the wild tiger.

The wild tiger stands as a symbol of all that is marvellous, mystical and powerful in nature. As a testament to this, artist Christian Furr will be curating one the most artistically and visually ambitious tiger-inspired exhibitions in contemporary art to date.  The International conservation project Save Wild Tigers has partnered with London’s Hotel Café Royal to present “Be Inspired.”

As the youngest artist to have ever been officially commissioned to paint the Queen in 1995, Christian has become a celebrated British artist boasting an impressive diversity in oeuvre, as illustrated in his own contribution to the exhibition in collaboration with late neon-designer and artist, Chris Bracey.

Christian gave us an insight to his involvement with the charity as well as an exclusive into the upcoming exhibition:

How did you come to be involved with Save Wild Tigers?

The cause was introduced to me and I wanted to do what I could to help.
Tracey Bambrough the co-organiser of the ‘Art of Giving’ art exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in 2010, introduced me to Simon Clinton the director of Save Wild Tigers. I had helped Tracey curate the show at the Saatchi Gallery in 2010 where I got lots of artists together that I thought would make a good show including people like Chris Bracey who I found making amazing neons in Walthamstow and the American body paint artist Alexa Meade. Banksy took part in that show too which was great. Tracey recommended me to Simon as someone who might be able to help with the cause through Art. This is one of my things. Getting friends together and new artistic talent and raising money for worthwhile charities through curating shows and raising money for charities through Art. My last show like this was at the £72m New Museum of Liverpool ‘Liverpool Love’ which I co-founded. Yoko Ono, Peter Blake, David Mach amongst other great artists took part in that one too. It’s satisfying to get people together to make a difference.

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Your own contribution to the exhibition will be a tiger inspired 3D neon piece — avid followers of your art will recognise this as a step away from your more familiar work, can you tell me a little about the piece and why you chose it?

As a contemporary artist I also use different mediums. My latest series ‘Jouissance’ —launching in Silicon Valley, uses coloured diamond dust. I am being drawn more and more to colour. It might be something to do with working in neon. I started creating artworks in the medium of neon in 2012 when I did ‘Neon Beatles’ with Chris (Bracey) – we then went on to do our joint Staying Alive collection ( the year after.
‘Tyger Tyger’ I see as a progression of a neon art piece Chris and I did together called ‘Lionheart’ currently on display at the Lights of Soho, Brewer Street London. The idea was to turn the trophy head idea on its head and it became a symbol of Love.

The new tiger neon for Save Wild Tigers takes its title from the visionary mystic William Blake who celebrates the Tyger’s ‘fearful symmetry’ in verse. It is a Bracey / Furr piece in honour of Chris – who was my good friend and creative collaborator in the medium.

The head appears on a cross in which the motifs of the Chinese flag appear.
The largest market for illegal tiger products such as tiger bone wine is the powerful country of China. Tigers are being sacrificed through poaching to fuel illicit wildlife trade for medicine. The traditional green cross of medicine now appears in Murano red neon. The colour symbolism has new meaning. Neon as a medium is something you can’t ignore. It is a sign or a message… now It becomes a call to action… Save this magnificent creature!

Is there a backstory behind the project that resonates with you a little more introspectively or are your contributions towards the charity solely out of good will?

I don’t like injustice. I think this is a cause worth fighting for. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone and then it’s too late. I think animals have great characters as much as people. I like making artworks based on them.

How will the exhibition aid in taking Save Wild Tigers forward towards achieving their goal?

Well, we have a great collection of artists all helping to raise awareness for the cause. Hopefully between us through our creativity we will be able to raise awareness as well as funds.

It’s noted that the majority of the threats that tigers face stem from human actions — was there ever a point while learning about these beautiful species and curating this exhibition where you thought “I wish I could do more”?

I think any small positive steps anyone can do go towards making a difference count. Like the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu said :

‘Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step’

How have the other artists involved in ‘Be Inspired’ responded to the aim of the exhibition?

Fantastically and all in their own ways. You will have to come along to see.

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right, by Dan Baldwin left, by Lauren Baker

What’s your take on Tiger Safaris and Tiger Reserves – do they disturb wildlife? Or are they a key instrument in deterring poaching?

Responsible Eco-tourism is a highly positive factor in the overall Tiger conservation strategy. It helps to raise awareness and allow people to see how beautiful these creatures are. Indeed The Tiger reserves in India are well run and tiger safaris tightly controlled to avoid too much disruption to wildlife. The safaris encourage photography only unlike the African example recently with Cecil the lion, killing of Tigers is illegal. Save Wild Tigers is a partner in one of India’s biggest tiger reserves in central India – the Satpuda landscape Tiger programme.

What’s the most commonly overlooked fact about Tigers and the state of their welfare?

In 1900 there were 150,000 tigers in the wild now there are only 3,200 tigers left.At the current rates of decline if nothing changes the wild tiger could be extinct in 10 years.

– All exhibited artworks will be available for purchase by auction at the Save Wild Tigers, Be Inspired Gala Dinner on Friday 9th October, at the Savoy. Profits from the auction will go towards conservation projects run by Save Wild Tigers, the Born Free Foundation and the Environmental Investigation Agency. –

Luciana Garbarni (@LucPierra)