Meschac Gaba was born in 1961 in Cotonou, Benin. He studied at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 1996-97.

It was at the Rijksmuseum, Leiden, in 1997 that Gaba inaugurated his major work, the Museum of Contemporary African Art, a project in which the artist installed 12 'rooms' of a nomadic museum in various institutions over a period of five years, culminating with his presentation of a 'Humanist Space' at Documenta 11. Other 'rooms' include the Museum Restaurant (shown at W139, Amsterdam, in 1999), the Games Room (shown in Besançon, France, in 1999 and in Brussels and Gent in 2000), the Library of the Museum (Witte de With, 2001, and published in 2001), and the Salon (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002).

The Museum of Contemporary African Art (1997-2002) was acquired by Tate and exhibited at Tate Modern, London, in 2013.