VMFA Names New Curator of African Art

According to a recent press release, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has announced the appointment of Dr. Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba to the position of Curator of African Art beginning May 25. He will be leading efforts to reimagine displaying the museum’s extensive African Art collection.

The VMFA conducted an international search and settled on Enzeluombo, better known as “Endy,” the release says, who was recently the Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) from 2018 to 2022.

Enzeluombo is not a stranger to Richmond or the VMFA, having previously held the position of Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research Specialist in African Art from 2016 to 2018. He returns to a city and a museum that boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of African art in the country.

“We are delighted to have Endy rejoining the curatorial team at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO, in the release. “He will advance the vision for the museum’s renowned African art collection, an invaluable resource for Virginians who wish to learn more about African art and culture.”

“I am excited to return to VMFA during such a transformative time for the museum,” Ezeluomba said in the release. “African art and culture are relevant to the history and people of Virginia. Through my work at VMFA, including curating the galleries for African art in the new wing as part of the museum’s upcoming expansion project, I hope to inspire an appreciation for and a deeper understanding of African art for all of our visitors.”

We look forward to talking with Dr. Enzeluombo regarding upcoming exhibitions or events. Below is more of the information provided in the release, including biographical details about the new hire.

“Ezeluomba will be charged with the development, interpretation and stewardship of VMFA’s African art collection, regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the United States. Comprising more than 1,200 works of art, including ceramics, figures, masks, paintings, photographs, ritual objects and textiles from more than 100 cultures throughout the continent, the collection offers a comprehensive survey of African art and cultural history dating from the first millennium BC to the 21st century …

As curator, Ezeluomba will head the installation and interpretation of works from the museum’s African art collection in the new wing, with a focus on exhibition development. A thought-leader and widely published authority on the restitution of African art, Ezeluomba will lead VMFA’s efforts through thorough research of provenance and title records of the African objects in the museum’s collection, returning works that were stolen or looted during the colonial era …

Prior to his work at VMFA, Ezeluomba served as a consultant for the installation Elusive Spirits: African Masquerades (2015) at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida. Ezeluomba also worked with the Harn Museum’s curatorial team to produce Kongo Across the Waters (2013), a major traveling exhibition which used an interdisciplinary approach to explore the art of the Kongo peoples of Central Africa and the transmission of their culture through the transatlantic slave trade into American art.

Raised in Benin City, Nigeria, where he initially trained as an artist, Ezeluomba received his Ph.D. in art history from the University of Florida, Gainesville. In 2017, he earned the University of Florida Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Award for his dissertation, Olokun Shrines: Their Functions in the Culture of the Benin Speaking People of Southern Nigeria. Ezeluomba graduated from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, completing his master’s thesis focused on the contemporary Nigerian sculptor Obi Ekwenchi. He received his bachelor’s degree in fine and applied arts from the University of Benin.”

Internationally recognized as one of the leading curators and scholars in his field, Ezeluomba has contributed to numerous publications including Black Art Quarterly; African Arts journal; Hyperallergic; Routledge Encyclopedia of African Studies; African Artists: From 1882 to Now (Phaidon) and Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. His essay Cultural Patrimony and Discussion of the 1897 Invasion of Benin Kingdom: Some Questions for Arts Management will appear in the forthcoming publication Art Management and Cultural Policy across the African Diaspora. Ezeluomba was also a co-author of The Arts of Africa: Studying and Conserving the Collection (2021), the product of a groundbreaking collaboration between VMFA curators and conservators, supported by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Other recent published works include Benin Art: Changes through Time and Space in The Literature and Arts of the Niger Delta (2021); and The Development of the Exhibition of African Art in American Museums: Strategy for Engaging the Recent Repatriation Debate About the Cultural Property of Benin in Museum Innovation: Building More Equitable, Relevant and Impactful Museums (2020).”

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