El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale

Past Exhibition

El Anatsui (born 1944, Anyako, Ghana) is perhaps Africa's most prominent living artist.

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This exhibition encompasses every media used by the artist in his remarkable 50 year career, focusing on the triumphant and monumental quality of his sculptures, with the signature bottle cap series at the heart of the presentation. Along with these ambitious works, the exhibition includes wood sculptures and wall reliefs from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s; ceramic sculptures of the late 1970s; and drawings, sketches and prints.

Based in Nsukka in Nigeria since 1975, Anatsui's ideas were formed in the context of the creative environment there, marked by artistic experimentation and aesthetic research, and founded on the belief that great art can be developed anywhere in the world. Anatsui and his cultural contemporaries in Nsukka were motivated by a sense of worldliness that was more imaginative than locational, with an abiding conviction that their work could contribute to enlarging the scope of creative production in a much-expanded, global contemporary art scene.

Triumphant Scale testifies to Anatsui’s invention of a completely new and unique sculptural form and visual language, with material for artmaking revealed to him by his context of production. It presents ideas that inform his practice across the diverse media that he has worked with, from circular and multi-panel wood reliefs to terracotta forms, and the later metal sculptures. One such idea is art's ability to engage with the complex flow of history, memory and time, and the way in which these forces shape human society.

Anatsui's use of fragmentation as a compositional technique gives even the most abstract of his works an iconic power. For instance, the laborious manual work of flattening, cutting, twisting, and crushing bottle caps and using copper wires to stitch the elements into one dazzling epic piece serves as a metaphor for the constitution of humanity.

El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale, curated by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okele-Agulu. The exhibition has been organised by Haus der Kunst, Munich, in collaboration with Qatar Museums - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art Doha, Kunstmuseum Bern and Guggenheim Bilbao.