See David Adjaye’s Designs for a New Museum of West African Art in Benin City

David Adjaye has quickly risen to the status of one of today’s most sought-after museum architects, with upcoming projects including a new home for New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem and a revamped Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey. Add to these projects another, whose designs were revealed on Friday: the Edo Museum of West African Art, which is slated to open in Benin City in 2025.

The museum (EMOWAA, for short) is intended to house West African art and cultural objects of all kinds, and it will have the most comprehensive showing of Benin Bronzes to date. Located next to the palace of Oba, Benin’s traditional ruler, the institution will display both historical and contemporary objects. Its primary focus will be displaying objects that are being repatriated to Benin from European art institutions currently.

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Execution of Adjaye’s designs for the museum is slated to begin in 2021, and it is being conducted in collaboration with professionals in Nigeria. The first phase of construction will be an archaeology project that will excavate the surroundings for evidence of past structures.

Efforts to bring plundered cultural heritage back to Benin have received significant attention. In France, a report recommended that the nation begin the process of returning African objects that currently reside in national museum collections, though little progress had been made until this month, when the country’s senate voted to return artifacts to Benin and Senegal within the next year. And the British Museum has been the subject of scrutiny because it holds 900 objects from Benin in its collection. The British Museum is listed as a partner on the EMOWAA excavation project, along with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

Below, a look at the renderings for Adjaye’s design for EMOWAA.


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