Indeed, these museums are amongst the main art institutes on the entire continent with the capacity and resources to present large-scale exhibitions that would otherwise not be on view in Africa. They have come to life thanks to private investment with the expectation to fill the function that public institutions in the rest of the world have long filled. Below, we’ve rounded up a list of the recent museums built in Africa devoted mainly to contemporary African art.
MACAAL, Marrakech, Morocco
The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden was established in 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco, and opened its doors to the public in 2018. The museum is a philanthropic initiative of Moroccan art collectors Alami Lazraq and his son Othman Lazraq. Motivated by their passion for the arts, the Lazraq family provided their private collection of modern and contemporary African art, built up over the past 40 years, to the museum. With an exhibition area of approximately 9,700 square feet, the building showcases art from Morocco and its neighbouring countries across a range of media. In addition to the permanent collection, exhibitions focus on art which engages in a dialogue with the continent, including African and international artists. The museum was inaugurated with “Africa Is No Island”, a group exhibition presenting the work of 40 emerging and established photographers from Africa and its diaspora including Sammy Baloji, Namsa Leuba, François-Xavier Gbré, Joana Choumali, Leila Alaoui, and Maïmouna Guerresi, among others. The exhibition paid tributes to the creative energy and cultural diversity found across the continent, and provided a contextual framework for contemporary Moroccan art.
Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which opened in 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. Housed in an historical building made out of repurposed historical grain silos, the space filled with a captivating honeycomb interior was redesigned by British architect Thomas Heatherwick. Its 65,000 square feet of exhibition space are spread over nine floors containing galleries, research centers, a performance space, a rooftop garden, an onsite restaurant, and a costume institute. The museum is named after Jochen Zeitz – a German entrepreneur and former head of Puma. Various museums’ items are coming from his private collection including works of artists from Africa and its diaspora such as Sue Williamson, Chris Ofili, El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge, and many others. Works from the collection which consists of paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations are displayed on a rotational basis in the museum’s permanent exhibition. Since last October, the museum is hosting the exhibition “Home Is Where the Art Is”, which presents art belonging to and made by Cape Town dwellers as a celebration of the emergence from the pandemic lockdown.
Museum of Black Civilizations, Dakar, Senegal
Inaugurated in 2018 in the capital city of Dakar, the Museum of Black Civilizations is the realisation of the idea birthed by Léopold Sédar Senghor – Senegal's first President. It aims to reshape the understanding of African history and that of the continent’s diaspora worldwide. The museum was funded by China, and designed by Chinese-state architects. Measuring 150,000 square feet and inspired by the traditional circular huts found in the southern region of Senegal, the massive building has four floors and a capacity for 18,000 art objects including photographs, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, wood carvings, and masks. The museum have grouped its permanent collections around various themes including Cradle of Humanity which displays skeletons discovered across the continent, African Civilizations which delves into the history of traditions and religions in Africa, Globalization of Africa which presents pan-Africanism concepts, and Africa Now which features contemporary African artists and artists of African descent. In a past exhibition, the museum paid tribute to Black women such as Winnie Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Harriet Tubman, and Angela Davis who have made significant impact on their societies in Africa and the diaspora.
Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Lekki, Nigeria
The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art is a contemporary art museum established in 2019 on the campus of the Pan-Atlantic University in Lekki, Nigeria. It is a privately-owned art museum founded by Yemisi Shyllon, a Yoruba prince of the Ogun state in southwest Nigeria. The 13,000-square-feet cubic-shaped museum was designed by Spanish-Nigerian architect Jesse Castellote, and contains about 1,200 artworks that were mainly donated by the prince. The majority of his private collection was built while travelling across the country and features artworks from African artists. For instance, the works of El Anatsui, Ben Enwonwu, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, and Peju Alatise among others are in full display at the museum. The museum contains works ranging from traditional African art including Nok terracotta, wooden sculptures, carvings, and masks to contemporary photographs, paintings, and sculptures. The museum has also received several artworks donated and on loan from several other private individuals, artists, collections, and trusts. In August 2021, the museum will present an exhibition called The Invincible Hands, which is intended to celebrate the artistic contributions of Nigerian women artists.