Gus Casely-Hayford, director of Smithsonians African art museum, to lead V&A East

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Gus Casely-Hayford, the new director of V&A East Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Gus Casely-Hayford is to become the inaugural director of V&A East—the Victoria and Albert Museums new branch which will be established on the former London Olympic site. He will be responsible for two linked projects: the waterside museum in Stratford and the nearby collection storage and research centre, which are both due to open in 2023.

Casely-Hayford, who is a Briton of Ghanaian descent, is a cultural historian and is currently director of the Smithsonians National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. He will take up his position as V&A East director next spring, under the overall museum director Tristram Hunt and the deputy, Tim Reeve.

Casely-Hayford promises to “craft dynamic and compelling ways for our audiences to get close to the extraordinary, to be transported across time and geography by the most beautiful and intriguing things”.

Planning permission for the waterfront museum was given in June, with enabling work starting the following month. Piling has already been completed for the foundations and construction contracts are due to be signed in December. The architects are Dublin-based ODonnell + Tuomey.

The publicly accessible collection centre, which is ten minutes walk from the museum, has been simpler in planning permission terms, since it just involves the internal conversion of a modern building. Permission was granted in April last year and work on site is due to begin next month.

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Reeve describes the waterfront museum and the collection and research centre as “non-identical twins”. He says: “They share the same mission, to revolutionise access to our collection and be firmly rooted in east London. But the two elements are distinctive. The museum will host exhibitions and a co-curated gallery with the Smithsonian Institution. The collection and research centre will pioneer a new type of visitor experience running through the stores.”

Reeve expects that V&A East will attract up to 1 million visitors a year—750,000 at the museum and 250,000 at the collection centre. This compares with nearly 4 million at the main South Kensington museum.

V&A East is now under construction © The Art Newspaper/Martin Bailey

Although the capital cost of the five-storey waterside museum building has not been revealed, we understand that it will be under £100m (for comparison, the V&As South Kensington 2017 extension was £50m and V&A Dundee cost £80m in 2018). However, the waterside museum will not cost the V&A anything, since the entire Olympic Park culture and education project is being financed through the London Legacy Development Corporation, with funding from the Mayor of London, central government, residential land sales, and donations and sponsorship.

The waterside museums main exhibition gallery will be 850 sq. metres, only slightly smaller than the main one in the South Kensington museums new extension. In terms of programming, V&A East exhibitions will be aimed at a younger audience and engage with contemporary issues, such as climate change, with a particular resonance for an east London audience.

The museum project also involves a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, with loans and jointly curated exhibitions. Lonnie Bunch, the Smithsonians secretary (who took over last May), visited London late last month for further discussions. And Hayford, coming from the Smithsonians African art museum will also be a link.

V&A Easts collection centre will be situated in a section of what was the 2012 Olympic media centre, a huge, cavernous building now known as Here East, part of which is being converted for storage of museum objects. This will be funded with a £50m grant frRead More – Source