African Art for Artists Exhibition

Site: Virginia Museum for Fine Art
Address: 200 N Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220
Area: 4,000 sf
Year Built: 1976
Occupancy Type: A1

Project Introduction

Inspired by the geometry and natural materials found in the VMFA African Art Collection, I designed a showcase for the special exhibition basement. Focusing on the user experience, I created a space for artists to be inspired by the geometry. Both seated and standing viewing tables allow artists a surface to sketch side by side the artifact. The tables and modular seating also allows for workships. Hexagons like those in some of the art objects, helped to organize the space.

Problem Statement

Many people experience museum fatigue because of lack of seating and a lack of variety in their stimulation. Some artifacts can be looked over because of their small size or their everyday nature. In 1995 and 1994 the VMFA displayed all 250 objects from the African Art Collection, part of a $1.4 million project. Twenty-three years later, the VMFA could offer a space to artists to spend comfortable time with the beautiful objects that are here from lives lived in Africa.


Surprised by the fractal patterns found in African religious art, town planning, everyday objects, and Dogon folklore, I used the geometry of a hexagon to organize and inspire the exhibit.

Fractal Patterns
Fractal Patterns
Geometric and Fractal Plan Ideation

The entry to the exhibit alternates between shadows of patterns found in African art and small cases for text and artifacts to introduce the exhibit. The hallway is meant to transition the visitors from the outside world to a place of new understanding for African art.

Materials and Specifications

Trove Modern Pendant
W+W Kensington
Zenith Pebble Modular Seating

Recycled glass pendents, local reclaimed wood, existing concrete refinished, and practical modular and durable searting create an atmosphere both contemporary, environmentally friendly, and able to highlight the artifacts on display.

Custom tables made of reclaimed wood display intricate artifacts that people of all ages and abilities can either sit or stand and take their time to get to know. They are hexagons, as are the larger wooden acoustic panels (with LED lights), as is the even larger pattern on the concrete floor. This repetition creates a pattern language of fractals.