John Russo: down to a fine art

The shift from family lawyer to CEO of a renowned art group may not seem like an obvious one to make, but Maddox Gallery’s John Russo explains how an intellectual property case opened his eyes to a whole new world

DIAMONDS. LAW. ART. It’s definitely not your average career trajectory, but then John Russo is not your average guy. With a mind as sharp as his suits, he’s the kind of chap who excels in any situation. And the legal industry’s loss, was the art world’s gain.

We catch up with Maddox Gallery’s CEO to learn more about his journey.

When did you first get interested in art?

On a personal level, I have always had great appreciation of street art and indigenous art as long as I can remember. But professionally, I was first introduced to art when I was invited to negotiate one of the largest IP purchases ever made from an artist.

I’m proud to say this acquisition is yet to be replicated. The project awakened to me the opportunities that exist and the pleasure to be had delving into the stories a piece of art has to offer.

So you were in law before art?

I had the pleasure of working in the family office sector practising law and managing high-profile transactions, civil matters and copyright disputes on behalf of UHNW clients. But prior to that, I actually worked in the diamond industry for most of my professional life – spanning almost 25 years.

And how does your experience there help you in your current role?

I like to think I have a unique advantage navigating the atypical journey of purchasing blue-chip art with my background in luxury and high-value transactions. It taught me to focus on the experience of buying art, rather than focusing on the transaction of the purchase. Maddox Gallery is renowned for the experience we offer our clients as well as unrivalled industry knowledge.

What’s been your biggest challenge since joining Maddox?

Navigating the global pandemic. It presented obstacles and opportunities that no one could have prepared for or predicted. It was a unique moment in history, where we had no choice but to react in real time while offering comfort and assurance to our clients and our staff.

My focus was to reassess the consumer journey and to consider how we deliver a luxury and considered experience during an uncertain time which brought with it fear and doubt on a global scale.

I’m proud that we survived unscathed and on reflection, the pandemic showed the act of consuming did not only survive but in certain cases, it thrived.

What’s been your greatest achievement?

I am proud to say that Maddox Gallery has raised over £2.5m for charitable causes, including Soccer Aid, Art For NHS, Haven House Children’s Hospice, Calm, and UNICEF. It’s important to me that we balance running a commercial business with using our platform to raise awareness of charities across the UK.

This month, we launch a new exhibition by emerging artist Ross Muir in support of West London Zone; a charity which safeguards the welfare of children providing support socially, emotionally and academically.

Ross has spent time hosting art classes with the children and young people, and we have planned a series of fundraising initiatives to raise awareness and help WLZ achieve its fundraising target.

How has art stacked up against other ‘treasure asset’ classes over the last decade?

According to the 2023 Knight Frank’s Wealth Report, art was the top-performing luxury asset above others like whisky or vintage cars, showing a 29% increase in the past year and a remarkable 91% rise over the last decade.

Art also dominates in terms of popularity. Credit Suisse has noted that art accounted for nearly three-quarters of collectibles sales volume in 2022, while jewellery and watches represent 7% of collectible sales, sports memorabilia 7%, wine 6%, and vintage cars 6%.

Furthermore, art’s value doesn’t depreciate with use or consumption, unlike collectibles such as whisky, wine, or classic cars.

Art is about passion, history, appreciating beauty, craftsmanship, and the grand spectrum of human emotion

What’s your advice for those starting down the journey of art investment?

Investing in art is not just about buying low and selling high. It’s about passion, history, appreciating beauty, craftsmanship, and the grand spectrum of human emotion. You’re not buying something to simply hang on your wall – you’re investing in a legacy, a snapshot of human experience.

Don’t chase after the big names or trendy pieces; my advice is to invest in something you’re proud to hang on your wall, something that speaks to you and stirs your soul.

At the end of the day, the value of a piece of art is subjective, and if it doesn’t appreciate in monetary value, it should at least provide you with aesthetic value.

Invest in art not just for the potential financial returns, but for the cultural enrichment, the joy, the learning, and the passion that comes with it.

That’s the art of art investment.

And for those who are already experienced collectors, what does Maddox offer above the rest of the competition?

For seasoned art collectors, Maddox can offer exclusivity and access to secondary artworks that is virtually unrivalled.

If you’re looking for something unique, something precise, Maddox is a great place to start; our ability to source artwork is exceptional.

Honey 2023, by CooperHoney 2023, by Cooper

Can you give some examples of artists whom Maddox has championed – and how your support has helped their careers?

American visual artist Cooper was first discovered through Instagram by our creative director Jay Rutland during the pandemic. An in-person encounter back in 2021 swiftly led to his successful debut solo exhibition at Westbourne Grove in October 2022.

Following the sold-out show in London, Maddox next hosted Cooper for a summer residency at Maddox Gstaad, where the idyllic, Swiss mountain scenery inspired new, vivid colours and captivating patterns in his recent body of work.

Maddox’s support broadened Cooper’s horizons, introducing his art to a broader European audience while generating media coverage stirred by his dynamic creations.

Who are some new names we should be looking out for?

Cooper is just at the start of what will be an extraordinary career. I have no doubt that his work will become a powerful identifier; it’s rich, it’s luxurious and it’s complex.

While not necessarily a new name, Will Martyr is one of the most exciting British artists that a collector should be following right now and is one of the best technical artists I have yet to come across.

The precision to detail in his work is so soft and nuanced, and can only be described as beautiful. When you have the pleasure of seeing his work, you realise why there is a wait list and why it’s impossible to get a commission from him. He has a long and exciting trajectory, and I’m excited to see where his work takes him next.

Are there any areas of art you think are still undervalued?

I strongly feel that indigenous art is dramatically undervalued. I believe that in the next decade, indigenous art either from North America or the Australasia region will have its moment. People will start to recognise the talent from cultures that are hundreds of years old and the value of such work.

Where do you stand on NFTs? Are they the future – or best left as a flash in the pan?

My honest opinion is that NFTs are a Ponzi scheme built on a crypto exchange network that has allowed any form of momentum. They are a stain on the artworld landscape, and I strongly recommend any client of mine to not purchase them. It is now being reported that $25 trillion was lost by those investing in cryptocurrency and NFTs. In fact, it is now understood that trading in NFTs has dropped 97%. From day one, I have been an opponent of NFTs and my views haven’t changed.

Regrettably, one of the worst things to have come from NFTs is the significant setback it’s had on the medium of digital art. As the head of an international art gallery, the last thing we should be encouraging is investing in NFTs.

Their significance rose during the pandemic at a time when people were bored and seeking new ways to make money. To me, NFTs is the wild west; there is no secondary market and unfortunately, the people getting hurt are those who tend to have the most to lose. I can only describe it as the 21st Century example of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, please if you’re reading this, don’t do it. Don’t invest in NFTs.

Tell us about the new gallery space dedicated to Maddox Art Advisory – how does it differ to the other Maddox galleries?

Shepherd Market is an oasis of culture and calm in Mayfair that attracts an eclectic audience who love to consume and enjoy art.

Our goal was to set up a space where expertise and passion converge and the Maddox Art Advisory has evolved into a sophisticated offering.

We take immense pride in our ability to navigate clients through the labyrinth that is the art market and provide clients with a comprehensive art consultation service, whether they are focussed on investment or collecting art for personal enjoyment.

Due to the popularity and interest shown in art investment over the last few years, it made sense for Maddox to establish a defined space that is dedicated to your art journey.

For more information and advice on investing in art, head to

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