El Anatsui is an internationally acclaimed artist from Ghana who transforms simple materials into complex assemblages that create distinctive visual impacting contemporary art.
Some kind of an artistic wall cover made with unexpected materials that result in impressive works. He uses resources typically discarded such as liquor bottle caps and cassava graters to create sculptures that defy categorization. His use of these materials reflects his interest in reuse, transformation, and an intrinsic desire to connect to his continent while transcending the limitations of place. His work can interrogate the history of colonialism and draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment, but at the core is his unique formal language that distinguishes his practice.
Anatsui is well-known for large scale sculpture composed of thousands of folded and crumpled pieces of metal sourced from local alcohol recycling stations and bound together with copper wire. These intricate works, which can grow to be massive in scale, are both luminous and weighty, meticulously fabricated yet malleable. He leaves the installations open and encourages the works to take different forms every time they are installed. In the 2003 Fowler Museum catalogue accompanying his touring exhibition El Anatsui: Gawu, he said, “I don’t want to be a dictator. I want to be somebody who suggests things.”
In morphing to fit various installation spaces, Anatsui’s sculptures, which are often wall-based, challenge long-held views of sculpture as something rigid and insistent and open up his work to exist on its own terms. “I work more like a sculptor and a painter put together,” he said in an interview with Chika Okeke-Agulu. “Their drapes and folds have a voluptuous sculptural presence, but also an undeniably glamorous bravado.”
The artist currently lives and works between Ghana and Nigeria. In 2015, he was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, the Venice Biennale’s highest honor. El Anatsui has been represented by Jack Shainman Gallery since 2005.