Renowned Artist Kadir Nelson Unveils Compelling Muhammad Ali Portrait Alongside Nas At Hennessy’s Project Wild Rabbit

Never stop, never settle.

What is your wild rabbit? That is, your goal and aspirations, a question Hennessy encourages all consumers to search within themselves to find. This year at Art Basel Miami, Hennessy gave ten extremely talented students from Pratt Institute an opportunity to showcase just that, their own wild rabbits in their own artistic forms. With artist Kadir Nelson and legendary rapper Nas serving as judges, the Wild Rabbit Project kicked off with a bang as specialty Hennessy cocktails were flowing throughout the night. Ironically, although in close collaboration with Hennessy, Kadir does not drink, but that doesn’t stop him from supporting this movement.

Jesus Aranguren/Invision for Hennessy/AP Image

In case you haven’t heard of Kadir Nelson, you most definitely would recognize his work, the most recognized among millenials being Drake’s Nothing Was The Same album cover. Yes, we love us some Drake but Kadir has done many other dope paintings, making the Muhammad Ali portrait which was unveiled that much more anticipated. We spoke with Kadir who opened up about the inspiration for this particular canvas and what propelled him to get involved in Project Wild Rabbit.


VH1: What inspired you to collaborate with Hennessy for Project Wild Rabbit?

Kadir Nelson: Hennessy has a long tradition in celebrating and collaborating with artists who bring to life their Wild Rabbit and exude the embodiment of the mantra, “never stop, never settle”. I’m also a Pratt alum so that choice was very easy.


It’s interesting you decided to partner with Hennessy even though you don’t drink. Why is that?

I don’t drink but I certainly identify with the mantra and I tip my hat to Hennessy for celebrating artists and for encouraging and supporting the next generation of artists to become who they want to become. Hennessy has given these graduate students a really great boost for their careers. One of the things I wanted to do when I graduated was to become a working artist. I’m just really glad that Hennessy has taken the step to support students in their endeavors.


How hard was it for you as a student?

It wasn’t very hard. I loved school, I loved what I was doing. When you love what you do you will spend a lot of time doing it. If you spend a lot of time doing it you can master it. When I was at Pratt, I spent a lot of time with my craft and I built a lot of momentum and I was able to immediately start working after I graduated.

Have you met any of the students being judged tonight on their “Wild Rabbit”?
Oh yea, I met students via Skype. I was able to talk to them and mentor them as they were working on their projects. Then I got to be a judge and look at the work that they were doing or they had done. Then I met the two finalists tonight.

Do you see similarities within yourself in any of the students you mentored through this experience?
I know what it’s like to be an art student and not knowing if you’ll be a working artist. I can certainly identify with that and the support they’re getting. I didn’t get this big of a boost when I started as a student but I had a lot of support from my family.

I’m very familiar with your illustrations that are commonly used in children’s books in the school system. Are books your preferred artistic outlet?
I just love telling stories with my work, whether it’s with children’s books or a series of paintings or one painting. My trade is art, I’m an artist. I became an author out of necessity. All of it serves the same purpose, to tell stories to uplift people. As I say in my Wild Rabbit statement, “to create beautiful and compelling images that inspire people to be their best”.

Well, thank you so much for speaking with us and your contributions to the culture! We look forward to seeing the Muhammad Ali portrait.
No, thank you. Enjoy the event!

And enjoy we did. The interactive exhibits made the event that more enjoyable. These students couldn’t have had a more discerning visionary to judge this competition. Check out some photos of the finalists with Kadir from the event!

Jesus Aranguren/Invision for Hennessy/AP Images

Project Wild Rabbit Image Captions Setareh Parvin + Kadir Nelson + Arian BeauregardSetareh Parvin finalist in Hennessy and Pratt Institute’s 2016 Project Wild Rabbit, stands with artist and Project Wild Rabbit judge Kadir Nelson and fellow finalist Arian Beauregard stand by their award-winning artworks displayed at the Project Wild Rabbit Gallery at Market Gallery during Art Basel on Thursday, December 01, 2016 in Miami, FL.

Jesus Aranguren/Invision for Hennessy/AP Image
Setareh Parvin finalist in Hennessy and Pratt Institute’s 2016 Project Wild Rabbit, stands by her award-winning artwork titled Roots. The artwork was displayed at the Project Wild Rabbit Gallery at Market Gallery during Art Basel on Thursday, December 01, 2016 in Miami, FL.

Jesus Aranguren/Invision for Hennessy/AP Image
Arian Beauregard finalist in Hennessy and Pratt Institute’s 2016 Project Wild Rabbit, stands by her award-winning artwork titled 2001. The artwork was displayed at the Project Wild Rabbit Gallery at Market Gallery during Art Basel on Thursday, December 02, 2016 in Miami, FL.

What’s your wild rabbit?

professional television watcher and a hopeless romantic living in Brooklyn; you see where my dilemma lies. IG: _iparker_
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