Gus Casely-Hayford, the British curator, cultural historian, broadcaster and lecturer, has been named as the inaugural director of V&A East – the museum's new expansion project scheduled to open in London in 2023.
Casely-Hayford is currently the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. Upon returning to London in Q2 2020 to begin his new role, he will be responsible for the creative strategy and programming across V&A East's two public venues in east London, both under construction in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Tim Reeve, V&A deputy director and project lead for the V&A East project, said the museum had "cast the net wide to find a creative leader of the highest standing". Of the project itself, Reeve added that it was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform how we engage young, diverse audiences, and to revolutionise how our collections are accessed and experienced".
V&A East will comprise of a five-storey museum, designed by O'Donnell + Tuomey, at Stratford Waterfront, and a purpose-built collection and research centre, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a ten minute walk away.
The museum is to host, as its centrepiece, a UK-US partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, spanning the arts, humanities, science and nature, and uniting the two museums' collections to tell "relevant, topical and powerful stories about the world in which we live".
More than 250,000 objects, 350,000 books and 1,000 archives will be held at the collection and research centre, which the V&A said will "reinvent the idea of a museum store as visitor experience".
Both sites will be part of East Bank – a new "powerhouse" of culture, education, innovation and growth that is taking shape in the 2012 Olympic park.
Casely-Hayford has lectured widely, sat on many art institutions' boards and presented broadcast programmes for the BBC and Sky Arts. He was awarded an OBE for services to the arts and culture in 2018.
He said that the V&A has "long been the arts institution that I have looked to for innovation and inspiration", and described the collection as "the most thrilling body of material culture I have ever encountered".
"We are going to craft dynamic and compelling ways for our audiences to get close to the extraordinary, to be transported across time and geography by the most beautiful and intriguing things. We want to give you the tools to tell and retell your own stories through objects that move you – and to change the way that we think about ourselves and the world."