THE VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS (VMFA) named Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba to the position of curator of African art. The appointment marks his return to the Richmond museum. From 2016-18, Ezeluomba was an Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research Specialist in African Art at VMFA.

Ezeluomba will be responsible for the museum’s African art collection, providing stewardship and interpretation and overseeing acquisitions and the installation of the collection in a new wing currently undergoing expansion and renovation.

 


Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba joins the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts later this month as curator of African art. | Photo courtesy VMFA

 

In addition, Ezeluomba will address one of the most pressing issues in his field. A highly regarded authority on the restitution of African art, he “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.”

Ezeluomba, who goes by Endy, has been serving as the Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art since 2018. He officially begins his new position at VMFA on May 25.

“We are delighted to have Endy rejoining the curatorial team at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” VMFA Director and CEO Alex Nyerge said in a May 12 statement. “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.”

A curator and scholar who initially trained as an artist, Ezeluomba was raised in Benin City, Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Benin with a B.A. in fine and applied arts; completed a master’s degree at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where the subject of his thesis was contemporary Nigerian sculptor Obi Ekwenchi; and earned a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Florida, Gainesville, where his research on “Olokun Shrines: Their Functions in the Culture of the Benin Speaking People of Southern Nigeria” won a doctoral dissertation award.

Addressing restitution issues will be among Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba’s priorities. He “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.”

At VMFA, Ezeluomba will steward an expansive collection of African art the museum describes as “one of the most comprehensive” in the country. The holdings include more than 1,200 items, dating from the first millennium BC to the 21st century. With works spanning many mediums, from ceramics, figurative sculptures, paintings, and photographs to masks, ritual objects, and textiles, the collection represents more than 100 cultures from throughout the African continent.

Last year, VMFA embarked upon a $200 million renewal project expected to be completed in 2027. The plans include expanded gallery space in a new 170,000-square-foot-wing that will house the museum’s African, American, contemporary, and photography collections, and provide additional special exhibition space.

“I am excited to return to VMFA during such a transformative time for the museum,” Ezeluomba said in a statement. “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.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba is a co-author of “The Arts of Africa: Studying and Conserving the Collection, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” which was published last year. He also contributed to “African Artists: From 1882 to Now” from Phaidon. “African Art” is an earlier VMFA publication The catalogs “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse” and “Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen” document major exhibitions organized by VMFA.

 

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