For Immediate Release
November 17, 2016
Emily Kowalski | (919) 664-6795 | [email protected]
N.C. Museum of Art to Feature African Creativity Spanning 16 Centuries in New, Expanded
Gallery to open in summer 2017
Raleigh, N.C.—This summer the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) will open a new, expanded African art gallery
in the Museum’s East Building. The new gallery will be three times as large as the current West Building gallery,
allowing the Museum to display nearly twice as many works—including some that have not been on view in a decade,
and others that are newly acquired and have never before been seen. The new gallery will feature improved light
control so that light-sensitive works of art, such as textiles and works on paper, can be given more visibility, shown in
curated rotations. Additionally, the gallery will include a designated space to highlight North Carolina collections of
African art from private collectors and public institutions, beginning with work from Bennett College.
The Museum’s curatorial, design, conservation, and education teams have been working with consulting curator
Elizabeth Perrill on a cohesive reinstallation plan. The Museum’s East Building’s 3,000 square feet of entry level spaces
will be repurposed into galleries, participatory studios, and interpretive spaces to better engage the visitor through
experiences that cultivate creativity, imagination, and experimentation.
Consulting curator Elizabeth Perrill
explains her curatorial vision: “The
permanent African galleries will guide
visitors following a geographic orientation,
with maps to orient visitors. These
geographic zones are enriched through
thematic emphases, as well as areas
featuring individual artistic traditions. The
plan features stylistic comparisons and
continuities, with a particular stress on the
diversity of African creativity.” Object
displays and gallery sections—focusing on
the intricacy and stylistic specificity of
artworks—include gold and regalia,
masquerade (enlivened by films of
performances and two reconstructions of
full-scale masquerade ensembles), and
modern and contemporary art.
The reinstallation project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. The grant also
funded the creation of a new media and photography gallery, and the renovation and expansion of one of the
Museum’s educational studio spaces.
Features of the New Gallery
African art spanning 16 centuries: The scale and scope of this permanent collection installation provides
visitors with the opportunity to see African creativity that spans sixteen centuries. The gallery will emphasize
the ongoing dynamism of the African continent in both ancient times and today: the oldest work on view will
be a circa 600 terracotta sculpture, and the newest work will be a site-specific drawing by Nigerian-born artist
Victor Ekpuk to be created in June 2017. The new gallery will highlight additional modern and contemporary
works of art by African artists, including El Anatsui’s large-scale Lines That Link Humanity. Contemporary
African works will also continue to be seen in both the NCMA’s Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park, as well
as in West Building’s modern and contemporary galleries.
African art spanning the continent: In the new gallery, geographic focal spaces will highlight distinct
stylistic trends and conceptual themes from across the continent. To complement previous strengths in West
NC Museum of Art to Feature African Creativity Spanning 16 Centuries in New, Expanded Gallery
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and Central Africa, the gallery will include a new focal area featuring Southern and Eastern African art. The
NCMA’s Egyptian Gallery will stay in West Building to maintain the historical timeframe and context with the
Museum’s other ancient art collections, including Greek and Roman.
More gallery space: The new gallery will be three times as large as the old gallery, both allowing more
works to be on view and dedicating more space to each individual work. With the additional space, the
Museum can organize the collection in meaningful ways, and even small works can be viewed closely and
appreciated as great works of art.
More works of art on view: The average number of works on view will grow from 65 in the old gallery to
125 in the new gallery, including works that have not been on view in over a decade and new works that have
never before been displayed. In fact, in the new gallery’s curated rotation schedule, 107 works of art that are
newly acquired, loaned, or have not been on view for over 10 years will be on display. Additionally, the
presentation of African women’s creative practices has been bolstered by new inclusions of ceramic arts.
North Carolina collections: The new gallery will include a wall dedicated to North Carolina collections, both
public and private. The first rotation of this exciting new space will focus on 10 works of art from the Bennett
College art collection recently donated from the estate of Warren M. Robbins, founder of the National Museum
of African Art at the Smithsonian. Says Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, interim president of Bennett College,
“Bennett College is pleased to be a part of this exciting African art exhibition. The sharing of these items from
our African Art collection undoubtedly enhance the public’s awareness of the uniqueness of this form of art as
well as an appreciation for the preservation and exhibition of various art cultures. We welcome the opportunity
to continue the collaboration with the North Carolina Museum of Art in future exhibitions.”
Improved lighting controls: The new gallery in East Building will have lighting controls that allow the
Museum to display a broader range of materials than in the West Building gallery. Light-sensitive art—such as
textiles, costumes, and photography—will be shown in curated rotations, offering more visibility to these types
of works.
Site-specific work by Nigerian-born artist
Victor Ekpuk: The first rotation of the new
African art gallery will feature a 30 x 18 foot
site-specific wall drawing commissioned by
Nigerian-born and D.C.-based artist Victor
Ekpuk (pictured right), whose recent
exhibitions at the Havana Biennale and London
have earned him international acclaim. This
installation will highlight the grandeur of the
new East Building location and emphasize the
NCMA’s commitment to accentuating Africa’s
role as a nexus of contemporary art.
Interactive studio space: The education
gallery (Studio 3) will serve as an interpretive
space for the newly reinstalled African Gallery
and focus on Central and West African textiles.
This three-room gallery will showcase African textiles from the collection, reading areas for children and
adults, interactive technology, and hands-on activities. A focal point in this gallery will be a massive
collaborative loom where visitors will be invited to experiment with a variety of materials and weaving
While the collection is off view this winter and spring, the Museum’s conservation and design teams will work to
prepare the collection and the new gallery space. The Museum’s collection and the works on loan will receive
conservational review and treatment—including removing dust, dirt, and debris; stabilizing any structural weaknesses
due to insect damage in the wood; and cleaning decorative elements such as metal applique, feathers, plastic fibers,
and fabric. Additionally, new mounts will be created for some of the works to accommodate the new gallery’s design
and to display the works appropriately and safely.
December 2016: Works of art go off view in West Building African art gallery.
December 2016−June 2017: Works of art (including the works on loan from local collections) undergo
conservation review and treatment; new mounts are created.
NC Museum of Art to Feature African Creativity Spanning 16 Centuries in New, Expanded Gallery
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February 2017−June 2017: The new East Building gallery is renovated and prepared; works are installed.
June 2017: Contemporary Nigerian-born artist Victor Ekpuk creates site-specific mural in new gallery.
June 30, 2017: New African art gallery is complete.
July−September 2017: After a soft opening of the new gallery, the Museum hosts programs celebrating
African art, including lectures, concerts, film screenings, and more.
September 2017: The Museum hosts an African art celebration.
“We are eager to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of Africa and—at last—elevate them to a central showcase in the
Museum. This new, expanded gallery will give the African collection the attention it so deserves, welcoming our
visitors as they enter the building and offering opportunities to engage with and experience the art,” says Lawrence J.
Wheeler, director of the NCMA. “We are grateful to the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, whose critical and
generous grant served as a catalyst to the Museum’s master plan to rehabilitate the Museum’s East Building as a
dynamic place for enjoying art and educational activities.”
Visitors are encouraged to follow along as the Museum prepares to open the new gallery by visiting The web page includes a timeline, highlights of the collection, and a continually
updated slideshow featuring behind-the-scenes images of the conservation and design process. Additional video and
blog content will also follow the reinstallation project.
Image captions (top to bottom):
Conceptual rendering of East Building African Art Gallery
Victor Ekpuk works on Meditation on Memory at the Havana Biennial in 2015
About the North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art’s permanent collection spans more than 5,000 years, from ancient Egypt to the present,
making the institution one of the premier art museums in the South. The Museum’s collection provides educational, aesthetic,
intellectual, and cultural experiences for the citizens of North Carolina and beyond. The 164-acre Museum Park showcases the
connection between art and nature through site-specific works of environmental art. The Museum offers changing national touring
exhibitions, classes, lectures, family activities, films, and concerts.
The Museum opened West Building, home to the permanent collection, in 2010. The North Carolina Museum of Art, Lawrence J.
Wheeler, director, is located at 2110 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. It is the art museum of the State of North Carolina, Pat McCrory,
governor, and an agency of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Susan Kluttz, secretary.
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