It all started in 2005; when about 30 works by Gebre Kristos Desta - one of Ethiopia's leading modern artists, a poet and an inspiring teacher - that had remained in Munich, Germany where the artist lived from 1978 to 1980, made their way back to Ethiopia. The German Cultural Institute (Goethe) was entrusted with the pieces but couldn’t provide the space to hold and display all of the works, causing them to disappear from the public view.
Professor Andreas Eshete, who at that time was President of the Addis Ababa University, and other devotees of the artist decided to find a new venue that could accommodate all of the artist’s works. The answer came not in a brand new building but in the restoration of the former palace of Alga Werash Asfaw Wosen, close to the seat of the German Cultural Institute, that had been serving as public administration department of the Addis Ababa University.
The renowned Ethiopian architect Fasil Giorghis (Chair of Conservation of Urban and Architectural Heritage at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development), known for restoring historic buildings, designed the new museum, nearly doubling its space. The Federal Republic of Germany covered the cost of the renovation and restoration.
Thus, on October 10, 2008, the renovated and expanded Modern Art Museum named after Gebre Kristos Desta, who lived and painted from 1932 to 1981, opened its doors.
The museum, situated in the premise of the Faculty of Business of the Addis Ababa University, is the first institutionalized space dedicated to modern art in the city. The lavish exteriors and the interiors of the building are of architectural and historical significance in themselves. They provide a rich setting for collections that cover virtually every aspect of fine arts.
The dedication engraved on the front wall of the building promises “to contribute to the intellectual and cultural life of Ethiopia as well as to host Gebre Krists Desta’s artistic achievement”.