Gus Casely-Hayford named first director of V&A East

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 08.11.2019
East London museum complex due to open in 2023
The curator, cultural historian and broadcaster Gus Casely-Hayford has been appointed as the inaugural director of V&A East, the new museum complex being created by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in east London.

Casely-Hayford is currently the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. He will take up the newly-created director role at the V&A East in spring next year.

Casely-Hayford will lead on developing the creative strategy and curatorial programming for V&A East’s two venues, which comprise a new museum at Stratford Waterfront and a collection and research centre a 10-minute walk away at Here East. 

He will be responsible for driving new audiences and creating a brand vision and identity for the venues, as well as managing the curatorial and project teams. 

Casely-Hayford is renowned for bringing postcolonial perspectives on Africa to a wider audience through his work as a curator, writer, broadcaster and lecturer. He has consulted on many exhibitions, including Tate Britain’s Artist and Empire, and West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library, both in 2015. 

He presented two series of Lost Kingdoms of Africa for BBC Four between 2010 and 2012, as well as giving a TEDGlobal Talk entitled The Powerful Stories that Shaped Africa in 2017. He has also presented shows for Sky Arts and BBC Two’s The Culture Show. 

He is a fellow of the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, honorary fellow of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and a Clore fellow. He has previously sat on the boards of many cultural institutions, including the National Trust, London’s National Portrait Gallery, the Caine Prize for African Writing and English Heritage's Blue Plaque Group. 

Casely-Hayford will report to the V&A’s director Trustram Hunt, and deputy director and chief operating officer Tim Reeve, who is overseeing the operational strategy of the V&A East project. 

“I feel enormously privileged to be asked to become part of the fantastic V&A team,” said Casely-Hayford. “It has long been the arts institution that I have looked to for innovation and inspiration. And what a brief – working to deliver a new museum for east London. And what a collection – the most thrilling single body of material culture I have ever encountered. 

"The V&A is a museum with the appetite and ambition to really shift the way that museums work and engage. I cannot wait to share the magic of V&A East with new audiences and our old friends.”

Reeve said: “I’m delighted that Gus is joining the V&A to lead and launch V&A East. This is a hugely ambitious project – for east London, for the UK and for international cultural exchange. It offers us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform how we engage young, diverse audiences, and to revolutionise how our collections are accessed and experienced.”

The V&A East museum complex, which is being developed by the V&A in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, is scheduled to open in 2023. Irish architects O'Donnell + Twomey have designed the museum building, while the collection centre has been designed by the New York-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro.