Museums News

A new managing director for New York’s Africa Center

Image courtesy of Neoscape/Robert A.M. Stern Architects
Image courtesy of Neoscape/Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Last week, The Africa Center (once known as the Museum for African Art) appointed former U.S. ambassador Michelle Gavin as new managing director. She will be responsible for The Africa Center’s development, strategic expansion and everyday operations. In the press release we read:

In accordance with the vision of the Board of Trustees, Gavin will oversee the development of infrastructure and programming in support of a mission that spans culture, business and policy. Gavin’s team will develop and curate a wide range of artistic exhibitions and events, foster a transformational and international enterprise network and develop a Policy Center that will serve as a new Africa-focused think tank. Altogether, The Africa Center aims to transform the international understanding of Africa, the world’s oldest continent with its youngest population, and to promote direct engagement between African artists, business leaders and civil society and their counterparts from the United States and beyond.

Before joining The Africa Center, Gavin served as United States Ambassador to Botswana from June 2011 to March 2013, after having spend a decade in International Affairs (with a focus on Africa). Her appointment will hopefully speed up the opening of the Center (whose launch has already been postponed six times). As said in a previous blog post, the old museum will only be a small part of a new hybrid organization (“part cultural outpost, part public policy institute and part international business forum”). As the New York Times states, this job will certainly give Gavin a chance to show her diplomatic skills while developing this reinvented institution – read the full article here.

So, what about the African Art? The Museum for African Art’s collection consists of about 550 objects from Africa or the African diaspora, including a bronze Benin head, carved wood figures, and masks and paintings by the Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi.

Ms. Gavin said her experience running an embassy with about 350 employees taught her to recognize what she doesn’t know. “I’m not an African art expert,” she said. “I’m not going to pretend to be. We’re going to get the right people who are steeped in that expertise and have the curatorial skill to help realize the vision of the Center.”

I volunteer 🙂