Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba Returns to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as Curator of African Art: “I hope to inspire a deeper appreciation and understanding of African art”

THE VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS (VMFA) named Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba as Curator of African Art. This appointment marks his return to the Richmond Museum. From 2016 to 2018, Ezeluomba was Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research Specialist in African Art at VMFA.

Ezeluomba will be responsible for the museum’s collection of African art, 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

Additionally, 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 the efforts of the VMFA through thorough research into the provenance and titles of African objects in the museum’s collection, returning works that have been stolen or plundered during the colonial era”.

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

“We are thrilled to have Endy join 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 of the museum’s renowned collection of African art, an invaluable resource for Virginians who want to learn more about African art and culture.”

A curator and scholar who first trained as an artist, Ezeluomba grew up in Benin City, Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Benin with a BA in fine and applied arts; completed a master’s degree at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where his thesis subject was the contemporary Nigerian sculptor Obi Ekwenchi; and earned a doctorate. in Art History from the University of Florida, Gainesville, where his research on “The Olokun Shrines: Their Functions in the Culture of the Beninese People of Southern Nigeria” won a doctoral dissertation award.

Resolving restitution issues will be one of Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba’s priorities. He will “lead VMFA’s efforts through extensive provenance and title research of African objects in the museum’s collection, returning works that were stolen or looted during colonial times.”

At VMFA, Ezeluomba will manage an extensive collection of African art that the museum describes as “one of the most comprehensive” in the country. The collections include more than 1,200 objects, 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 over 100 cultures from across the African continent.

Last year, VMFA launched a $200 million renewal project that is expected to be completed in 2027. Plans include expanded gallery space in a new 170,000 square foot wing that will house the African, American, Contemporary collections and photographs of the museum, and provide additional special exhibition space.

“I am thrilled 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 African art galleries in the new wing as part of the museum’s upcoming expansion project, I hope to inspire a deeper appreciation and understanding of African art for all our visitors. CT

BOOKSHELF
Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba is 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 Phaidon’s African Artists: From 1882 to Now. “African Art” is an earlier publication of the VMFA. The catalogs “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse” and “Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen” document the major exhibitions organized by the VMFA.

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