Above: Photo courtesy Gus Casely-Hayford
Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford, who writes, lectures and broadcasts widely on African culture, has been named Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art effective Feb. 5, 2018. He is a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and a member of its Centre of African Studies Council. He also sits on the Board of the Caine Prize for African literature. Casely-Hayford is currently writing and presenting a series of films on landscape art for British television.
Born in London, Casely-Hayford was educated at SOAS, where he received his doctorate in African history and was later awarded an honorary fellowship. As Director of Africa 05, he organized the largest African arts season in Britain with more than 150 venues hosting 1,000 events.
He has presented two series of “The Lost Kingdoms of Africa” for the BBC and wrote the companion book (Bantam Press, Random House, 2012). Last year, Casely-Hayford wrote and presented a six-part television series for Sky Arts called “Tate Britain: Great British Walks,” advised on a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Hamlet,” delivered a SOAS centenary lecture in Ghana, worked on a British Library exhibition focused upon African intellectual tradition, and advised on Tate Britain’s “Artist and Empire” exhibition. He also delivered a Ted Global Talk on pre-colonial Africa this past summer.
“Gus brings an impressive combination of knowledge, experience, communication skills and passion to the National Museum of African Art,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “His presence at the museum will boost its already prestigious programs and compelling exhibitions and inspire more people across the nation and around the world to explore the rich cultural heritage of African art.”
“It is such an exciting time to be joining the team at the National Museum of African Art,” said Casely-Hayford. “African art is at another fascinating juncture as artists reconfigure our understanding of the medium, helping us to chart courses through the big issues of our time while reminding us of the complex and long historical tradition upon which they stand.
“I want to build upon the exemplary institutional history of the National Museum of African Art and continue to deliver the very best of historical and contemporary African art to new and existing audiences alike,” he added. “I cannot wait to get to work.”
A former board member of London’s National Portrait Gallery, Casely-Hayford is currently working on an exhibition for the gallery that will tell the story of the abolition of slavery through 18th- and 19th-century portraits. He is also a Trustee of the National Trust (the U.K.’s largest heritage organization), a member of the Blue Plaque Group, a Clore Fellow, a fellow of the Cultural Institute at Kings College London and author of an upcoming book on Timbuktu and the rise of the Mali Empire (Ladybird/Penguin, 2018).
Casely-Hayford succeeds Johnnetta Cole who served as Director of the National Museum of African Art from 2009 through 2017. He will report to the Smithsonian’s Provost, John Davis.
The search committee was chaired by Richard Kurin, then-Acting Provost, and included Lanisa Kitchiner, Senior Educator, National Museum of African Art; Christine Kreamer, Deputy Director/Chief Curator, National Museum of African Art; Maggie Johnson Obaji, Vice Chair, National Museum of African Art Advisory Board; J. Peter Pham, Vice Chair, National Museum of African Art Advisory Board; Julian Raby, Director, Freer|Sackler Galleries of Asian Art; and artist Victor Ekpuk.