Art + Christianity’s 2024 annual lecture will be given by the Director of V&A East, Dr Gus Casely-Hayford.
‘Balthazar: the third man drawn from the shadows’ will explore the story of the African wise man, and race and racism in religious art.
Anyone who grew up in medieval Europe would have known that one of the three kings who visited the infant Jesus was, African. And today, anyone who has grown up with any exposure to Christian symbolism, anyone who has received Christmas cards, or visited a national gallery in the Western world will probably know: Balthassar, the African King. But when I say ‘know’ – do we really know Balthassar – why was he so important – and indeed why has this enigmatic figure endured?
About Dr Gus Casely-Hayford, OBE, Director of V&A East, Professor of Practice, SOAS, University of London
Dr Casely-Hayford is the inaugural Director of V&A East, appointed in March 2020. He is a curator and cultural historian who writes, lectures and broadcasts widely on culture, having presented a number of series for Sky, BBC radio and television and other channels.
Formerly Executive Director of Arts Strategy, Arts Council England, (Britain’s major Art’s funder) and Ex-Director of the Institute of International Visual Art, he has offered leadership to both large and medium scale organizations including the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. He has served on the boards of many cultural institutions, including the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery.
Gus has lectured widely on culture, including periods at Sotheby’s Institute, Goldsmiths, Birkbeck, City University, University of Westminster and SOAS. He has advised national and international bodies on heritage and culture including the United Nations and the Canadian, Dutch and Norwegian Arts Councils.
In 2005 he deployed these leadership, curatorial, fundraising, communications skills to organize the biggest celebration of Africa Britain has ever hosted when more than 150 organizations put on over 1000 exhibitions and events.
Gus is a Cultural Fellow of King’s College London, a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, a Member of the Creative UK Council and a Trustee of the Karun Thakur Foundation. Gus is also a member of the Art Mills Museum Scientific Committee and the English Heritage Blue Plaques Committee.
He received a fellowship for service to the arts and a SOAS Honorary Fellowship for service to Africa and was also awarded an OBE in 2018 for his services to Arts and Culture. In 2023 he received Honorary Doctorates from both the University of East Anglia and the University of the Arts London.