Christopher Spring

Curator: Contemporary, eastern and southern Africa

Department: Africa, Oceania and the Americas 


+44 (0)20 7323 8064

Chris is jointly responsible for the Sainsbury African galleries, developing the collections of contemporary African art and the collections from eastern and southern Africa.

Chris has a Doctorate from Middlesex University, recently winning the Ken Goulding prize for academic excellence for his dissertation: 'A way of life: considering and curating the Sainsbury African Galleries at the British Museum.' Chris also has an MA from Oxford University and is a Helen Wilson scholar from Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, London. His on-going research explores the history, development and social significance of KANGA and other printed textiles of eastern and southern Africa, and the history of art in South Africa. Most recently he has co-curated an exhibition with Dr John Giblin entitled: 'South Africa the art of a nation' and co-authored the catalogue of the same name.

His interests build upon fieldwork in North Africa, then in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and southern and western Africa researching living textile traditions and working with contemporary artists such as Nja Mahdaoui, Robino Ntila, Rachid Koraichi, El Anatsui and Atta Kwami. The outcome of this work has been the acquisition of major textile collections as well as outstanding examples of work by these and other artists.

Chris' work on commissioning the Tree of Life from Mozambican artists working on the Swords into Ploughshares project in Mozambique was initiated when he purchased Kester’s Throne of Weapons for the British Museum in 2002. This sculpture has been on an extended tour of the UK as part of our Partnership UK scheme; a book documenting the tour has been published. This collaboration led in turn to working with colleagues in three different museums in Mozambique as part of the British Museum's Africa Programme. In recent years Chris has collaborated with the Triangle Arts Trust in the British Museum’s support for three Triangle workshops: Maputo, Mozambique (2008), Kumasi, Ghana (2009) and Lagos, Nigeria (2010).

Current projects

  • Working to support the exhibition 'South Africa the art of a nation' at the British Museum (October 27 2016 - February 26 2017)

  • Fieldwork and research into African printed textile traditions, particularly those of eastern and southern Africa

  • Refurbishment of the Sainsbury African Galleries (Room 25)

Previous projects

  • British Museum (2014) and subsequently touring (2015-16) exhibition: 'Social fabric: textiles of eastern and southern Africa'

  • 'Celebrating Africa' season at the British Museum 2015, including the exhibition 'Music, Celebration and Healing: the Sudanese lyre'.

  • Tour of the 'Throne of Weapons' 2005-2013

  • 'South Africa Landscape', the third in the British Museum’s collaborations with Kew Gardens, summer 2010.

    Tour of 'La Bouche du Roi' by Romuald Hazoumé - this remarkable artwork was displayed in Room 35, March – May 2007, as part of the British Museum’s response to the bicentenary of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It then toured to various venues including Hull, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle.

  • 'Africa '05' series of exhibitions and events at the British Museum including the 'Tree of Life' sculpture commissioned from four Mozambican artists.

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

  • Trustee and curatorial adviser, the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent

  • Trustee, the Africa Centre, London

  • Fellow, the Royal Anthropological Institute

  • Member, the West London Art Factory

Recent publications

J. Giblin and C. Spring, 'South Africa the art of a nation.' (London: Thames and Hudson, 2016)

C. Spring, 'African Art Close Up' (London: British Museum Press, 2015)

C. Okeke & C. Spring, et al, 'Contemporary African Art and the Museum: a roundtable' in Nka, Journal of Contemporary African Art (North Carolina: Duke University Press, Number 31, Fall 2012) pp. 46-111

C. Spring, 'African Textiles Today' (London: British Museum Press and Washington DC Smithsonian Institution Press, 2012)

C. Spring, 'Art, Resistance and Remembrance: A Bicentenary at the British Museum' in L. Smith et al (eds) Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous Engagements, (Routledge, New York and London, 2011) pp. 193-212

C. Spring, ‘African Connections: Collecting the Contemporary at the British Museum’, in Y. Kawaguchi (ed.) A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui (Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2010) pp. 182-201

C. Spring, African Art in Detail (London: The British Museum Press and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009)

C. Spring, Angaza Afrika: African Art Now (London: Laurence King, 2008)