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The concept of a teaching museum affiliated with the Pan-Atlantic University goes back quite a bit, long since a part of the initial master plan of the university. The institution, even when the Lagos Business School was the only one established, has consistently given its attention to the arts over the past two decades. Since the then named Pan-African University opened its doors, first at the Victoria Island Campus and then at the main one in Ibeju-Lekki, the arts have been an integral part of the life of the university, amassing a fine collection of artworks from contemporary Nigerian artists.
The university does not have a department of Fine Arts, but - as a natural consequence of its collection's expansion - PAU had, for years, looked for a way to create an art museum to host its collection, along with works from artists and collectors. So in 2011, the university website launched the (now defunct) Virtual Museum of Modern and Contemporary Nigerian Art, a pioneering project in the country. Around the same time, PAU started accepting proposals for the establishment of a physical museum for review from Nigerian collectors.
It was Prince Yemisi Shyllon's proposal for a university museum hosting his works, submitted in September 2014, that was approved by the university. Prince Shyllon agreed to donate 1,000 artworks from his huge collection to PAU’s university museum and committed himself to donate a substantial amount of money towards the contract execution and the eventual museum's long-term sustainability. Construction began in 2018, with its chief architect, Dr Jess Catellote, appointed as the first Director of the museum in December of the same year. The museum was named the “Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art” (YSMA) and was opened to the public in October 2019.
Though a relatively new phenomenon in Africa, university art museums have a long history in other parts of the world. In Nigeria, several universities and polytechnics have art galleries attached to their art departments, but till now, none of them had promoted a fully-fledged art museum as an independent unit within the university structure.
The architecture of the museum follows the principles that inspired the design of all the other buildings of the Pan-Atlantic University: fitness for purpose, flexibility, sustainability and character.
We have created a flexible space that will allow the museum to change its display configuration according to changing curatorial demands, whilst efficiently utilising its provided resources.
In planning the YSMA building and its systems, the designers gave great attention to security, environmental control, efficient lighting, display quality and ease of circulation. The excellent thermal insulation of the external walls and the efficient air circulation throughout the single “exhibition space” require a minimum air conditioning load. In addition, the cubic shape, a clean cube of 30 x 30 x 11 meters and the richly textured finish of the stained concrete walls give the museum building an iconic character, allowing it to stand out on the campus lawns and depict the university's recognition of the museum's value as an important contribution towards its educational mission.