Stern-designed Museum for African Art eyes April 2011 debut

Construction of a new building to house the Museum for African Art is well underway with an opening planned for April 2011. Located at 1280 Fifth Avenue, it will be the first new museum building built on New York’s Museum Mile since the completion of the Guggenheim in 1959 and the first purpose-built home for the Museum for African Art, which opened in 1984 and has operated from three different locations in New York City. The museum’s new facilities will allow significant growth in the number and scope of exhibitions so this important center of historic and contemporary African-American culture to serve larger audiences.

Designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects of New York, the museum will occupy four levels, one below grade, of a 19-storey residential tower encompassing 75,000 sq ft of space. Built of built of precast panels and glass, the building is distinguished on its north and west facades by trapezoidal windows with bronze-finished aluminum mullions that create a dynamic pattern. Entry is through a soaring glass atrium that leads to a 45-foot high lobby in which curving expanses of African etimoe wood form one of the walls and the ceiling. Joining the lobby at ground level will be a shop, restaurant and a 245-seat theatre and multi-media education centre. The second level will provide 15,000 sq ft of gallery space. Above it on the third floor will be offices, a library and an event space with a terrace overlooking Central Park.

The museum plans to inaugurate its new space with three special exhibitions: “El Anatsui: When Last I Wrote to You About Africa”; “Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art” and “New Premises: Three Decades of Exhibitions at the Museum for African Art”.

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