Richard Scheller’s Portrait : Collector of African Art

Richard Scheller's portrait- his African Art Collection and Art Passion

African mask from Richard Scheller’s collection

Richard Scheller, born in 1953, specialized in neuroscience, biochemistry and science research. The former Stanford University Professor, at an early age, was the Chief Science Officer & Head of Therapeutics at 23andMe and later Executive Vice President of Research and Early Development at Genentech. Indeed he had a successful career path but science not the only thing he is passionate about. Scheller began collecting sub-Saharan African art, and now owns more than 120-pieces in his collection, which can be seen in exhibitions and catalogs.

The beginning of his collection

Approximately 30 years ago, Scheller went to Africa on business and utterly fell in love with the culture and local art. He recalls,  “At first I was interested in the form and shapes”. Back in the USA, he still maintained heavy curiosity and interest in African art, finding himself attending museum exhibitions and even buying specialized books on the practice. Upon realizing he could own such lovely pieces of art, he began his now renown collection.

Currently, he owns over 120 artworks from 20 different countries, namely from the West and Center of Africa. These artworks are made of many kinds of materials, including; fabric, wood, ivory, and metal.

“It is extremely important to show the world the amazing art that has been created by African people so that folks can have an appreciation of the tremendous creativity of the people of Africa so I feel like I’m an ambassador for the creativity of the people of Africa which I think is a good thing”

The collection’s visibility

Seeing himself as somewhat of an ambassador for African art, Scheller decided to give his collection some visibility so that people may discover the allure of his special collection. He created a catalog with photographs of his art pieces alongside captions, texts, and old photographs of African artworks being used in everyday life. The pictures were taken by a photographer friend of his, while the captions and the texts were written by African Art specialists. Making this catalog was quite laborious, and took several years to finally publish.

But Scheller didn’t stop there; he is consistently invited to gives lectures in exhibitions, museums, and universities. Moreover, his collection was exhibited at the De Young Museum in San Francisco in 2015 as well as several other exhibitions all around the world.

richard scheller's art collection

19th century, Ngangela, Angola, Wood, beads, and fiber

Scheller shares his art collection with his wife, Susan McConnell, with whom, he says, he shares a taste. He admitted, “she has a tremendous eye for art “. The couple travels to Africa nearly every year together.

What does his collection represent to him?

For Richard Scheller, his art collection is not just for decorative purposes, but he is interested in the African culture and way of life that comes along with these artworks. The African history does not have much written content to study, as African people mostly represented their stories with objects. These objects, however, often have deeper significance surrounding ancestry and are a reflection of the society. Owning art pieces spanning from multiple countries and several centuries, Scheller likes to study the different ways that the body is represented and the ways these artworks reflect very different societies and cultures.

As a scientist, Richard is also interested in the DNA aspect of the artworks. He owns many different pieces made from varying materials. He had conducted studies of his wooden pieces of art, in an effort to know more about the trees they come from. Similar studies were done regarding ivory and metal pieces.

Not only is Scheller mesmerized by African artistry, but he has also grown passionate to African culture and the people of the great continent. For this reason, he is involved with the World Life Conservation Network (WLCN), and gives money to numerous African-aid charities.

« The carved forms didn’t represent the ancestor; they became the ancestor. So not only were they extremely beautiful and interesting, but (my collecting) became a way of preserving these incredibly varied, diverse, and rich cultures. »

If you own an Art Collection too, visit, and share your collection online!

So, art lovers all around the world will be able to enjoy your taste in art, and you can also send your online collection to your friends, family, and colleagues. Art is a passion that is easily shared and should be shared! So create your own art collection now!