The Africa Center

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The Africa Center, formerly known as Museum for African Art, is a museum that was formerly located in the neighborhood of Long Island City in the borough of Queens in New York City, United States and plans to reopen in the future. Founded in 1984, the museum is "dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of African art and culture." The Museum is also well known for its public education programs that help raise awareness of African culture, and also operates a unique store selling authentic handmade African crafts.[1] It closed in the early 2010s, with a prospective reopening date of 2015.

In 2015, the Africa Center hired Michelle D. Gavin, former United States Ambassador to Botswana and an expert on Africa, as its Managing Director.[2] Gavin left in late 2016.[3]

The Museum has organized nearly 60 critically acclaimed exhibitions and traveled these to almost 140 venues nationally and internationally, including 15 other countries. Forty of these exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues.

This museum is often confused with the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.


Begun as the Center for African Art, the Museum for African Art's founding director was Susan Mullin Vogel, who had previously worked as Associate Curator in the Department of Primitive Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During her time at the Museum for African Art, Vogel curated and organized ground-breaking exhibitions which put into question ways in which African art is presented to Western audiences, and how museum practices structure knowledge for the public. The most well-known of these exhibitions are "Art/Artifact: African Art in Anthropology Collections" in 1988, "Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art" in 1994, and "Africa Explores: 20th-Century African Art" in 1991.

In 2005, the museum was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.[4][5]

After several years of delayed openings,[1] and the realization that the initial goal of a museum on Fifth Avenue was not sustainable,[6] the decision was made to broaden the project's scope, and the current target for opening in the organization's new home was 2015. It will be on Museum Mile at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 110th Street in East Harlem, Manhattan. The new location, in a building designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern, is the first museum building built on New York's Museum Mile since the completion of the Guggenheim in 1959.

In the interim, the Africa Center will present pop up events in its new space until the building is completed.[6][7] It will serve as a cultural center and is currently modeling itself after the Asia Society and other similar organizations. The new building will make the museum accessible to a wide range of people from the world over, thus solidifying the museum's presence as one of the most challenging and diverse art institutions in the U.S.[8] The new building will encompass approximately 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2) with 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) of exhibition space, as well as a theater, education center, library, classrooms, event space, restaurant and gift shop. The growth into the cultural center has been spearheaded by, among others, Hadeel Ibrahim daughter of Mo Ibrahim.[1]


The Museum for African Art has organized over 50 exhibitions that have been shown in New York and around the world. Exhibitions that have been organized or co-organized by the Museum:

  • African Masterpieces from the Musée de l'Homme (1984)
  • Set, Series and Ensembles in African Art (1985)
  • Arts of the Guro of Ivory Coast (1986)
  • African Aesthetics: The Carlo Monzino Collection (1986)
  • African Masterpieces from Munich: The Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde (1987)
  • Perspectives: Angles on African Art (1988)
  • ART/artifact: African Art in Anthropology Collections (1988)
  • The Art of Collecting African Art (1988)
  • Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory (1989)
  • Wild Spirits Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness (1989)
  • Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (1990)
  • Likeness and Beyond: Portraits from Africa and the World (1990)
  • Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture (1991)
  • Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art (1992)
  • Secrecy: African Art That Reveals and Conceals (1993)
  • Home and the World: Architectural Sculpture by Two Contemporary African Artists (Aboudramane and Bodys Isek Kingelez (1993)
  • Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas (1994)
  • Fusion: West African Artists at the Venice Biennale (1994)
  • Outside Museum Walls: African Art in Private Collections (1994)
  • Western Artist/African Art (1994)
  • Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art (1995)
  • Artists and Ancestors in African Art (1995)
  • Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996)
  • Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention (1997)
  • Art That Heals: The Image as Medicine in Ethiopia (1997)
  • To Cure and Protect: Sickness and Health in African Art (1997)
  • African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection (1998)
  • Baule: African Art/Western Eyes (1999)
  • A Sense of Wonder: African Art from the Faletti Family Collection (1999)
  • A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art (1999)
  • Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art from South Africa (2000)
  • Hair in African Art and Culture (2000)
  • In the Presence of Spirits: Selections from the National Museum of Ethnology, Lisbon (2000)
  • African Forms (2001)
  • Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali (2002)
  • Facing the Mask (2003)
  • Recent Acquisitions: Selection from the Permanent Collection: Kingdom of Gold: A Photographic
  • Celebration of Ghana (2002)
  • Neger (Negro) – don’t call me (2003)
  • Material Differences: Art and Identity in Africa (2003)
  • Material Differences in Contemporary Art (2003)
  • Looking Both Ways: Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora (2004)
  • Where Gods and Mortals Meet: Continuity and Renewal in Urhobo Art (2004)
  • Personal Affects: Power and Poetics in Contemporary South African Art (2005)
  • Resonance from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art (2005)
  • Reflections: African Art Is… (2005)
  • Lasting Foundations: The Art of Architecture in Africa (2006)
  • At Arm’s Length: The Art of African Puppetry (2007)
  • Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (2007)
  • Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art (2008)
  • Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection (2008)
  • El Anatsui: Process and Project (2009)
  • Dynasty and Divinity: Ife in Ancient Nigeria (2009)
  • El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa (2010)
  • The Beautiful Time: Photography by Sammy Baloji
  • Jane Alexander: Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope) (2011)
  • Ibrahim el-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist (2012)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Maloney, Jennifer (2013-09-27). "New Africa Center's Journey in N.Y.". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  2. ^ Lorne Manly (March 18, 2015). "Africa Center Post Gives Michelle D. Gavin a Chance to Show Diplomatic Skills". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Roberts, Sam (July 6, 2005). "City Groups Get Bloomberg Gift of $20 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b Maloney, Jennifer (2013-08-22). "Museum for African Art Pivots Toward Policy". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  7. ^ Maloney, Jennifer (2013-09-26). "New Africa Center Sets 2014 Opening Date". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  8. ^ Chan, Sewell (February 9, 2007). "Museum for African Art Finds Its Place". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′47″N 73°55′42″W / 40.74639°N 73.92833°W / 40.74639; -73.92833