The V&A has announced Gus Casely-Hayford as director of V&A East, its project comprising two sites — a museum and research centre — in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Casely-Hayford is currently director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The London-born curator will take up his new position at the V&A in spring 2020 — the museum is expected to open in 2023.
Casely-Hayford says he feels “enormously privileged” to become part of the V&A: “It has long been the arts institution that I have looked to for innovation and inspiration.”
“We are going to craft dynamic and compelling ways for our audiences to get close to the extraordinary, to be transported across time and geography by the most beautiful and intriguing things,” he adds.
As well as his role at the Smithsonian, Casely-Hayford has consulted on Tate Britain’s 2015 exhibition Artist and Empire and presented two series of Lost Kingdoms of Africa for BBC2. In 2017, he presented a TEDGlobal Talk entitled The Powerful Stories that Shaped Africa.
Tim Reeve, the V&A’s deputy director, says: “Gus is perfectly placed to lead V&A’s growing team and to develop its new identity, purpose and programme.”
“V&A East offers us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform how we engage young, diverse audience, and to revolutionise how our collections are accessed and experienced.”
The V&A’s east London development includes two physical locations. The museum — which has been designed by Irish architectural company O’Donnell + Tuomey — will be situated at Stratford Waterfront.
The “centrepiece” of this five-storey museum is a partnership between the V&A and the Smithsonian Institution, spanning “arts, humanities, science and nature”, according to the V&A.
The V&A is also opening a collection and research centre, at Here East, a nearby building created for broadcasting the 2012 London Olympics.
Housing over 250,000 objects and 350,000 books, the V&A says that the centre will “reinvent the idea of a museum store as visitor experience”. It has been designed by New York-based architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
The two projects follow a period of development for the museum, whose original site is in South Kensington. As well as a redevelopment of its Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, the V&A also opened galleries in Dundee in 2017 and in Shenzhen in the south east of China in 2018.
Both east London venues are currently under construction in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and have a planned opening date of 2023.
They will form part of East Bank, a Stratford-based “powerhouse” that spans culture, education and the arts. The development includes educational institutions such as UCL East — UCL’s new campus — and UAL’s London College of Fashion.
At its Stratford Waterfront site, V&A East will be joined by new studios for the BBC as well as a venue for Sadler’s Wells.
It is hoped that the project will contribute to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which was built for the 2012 London Olympics.