An alumnus of the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, El Anatsui has made a major contribution to contemporary art. Throughout a long-lasting and distinguished career as both sculptor and teacher - he was Professor of Sculpture and Departmental Head at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka – El Anatsui has addressed a vast range of social, political and historical concerns, and embraced an equally diverse range of media and processes. His sculptures have been collected by major international museums, such as the British Museum, London; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the De Young Museum, San Francisco; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi; Osaka Foundation of Culture, Osaka; Museum of Modern Art, New York and many other prestigious institutions. October Gallery first exhibited his work in 1993.Read More
His installations have provoked wide international attention in recent years, with institutions and audiences fascinated by his sumptuous, mesmerising works made from thousands of aluminium bottle tops. During the 52nd Venice Biennale, in 2007, he transformed the façade of the Palazzo Fortuny by draping it in a shimmering bottle top sculpture, Fresh and Fading Memories. In 2010, two major touring shows of his work opened on opposite sides of the world; _El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa _at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada (organised by the Museum for African Art, New York) and _A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui _at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan. As part of the 2012 Paris Triennale, he transformed the entire façade of Le Palais Galliera, formerly known as the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, with his striking work, Broken Bridge. In 2013, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, exhibited the touring solo exhibition, Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, presented the artist with the prestigious Charles Wollaston Award for his work, TSIATSIA – searching for connection, 2013, which covered the entire façade of the RA building. The major survey exhibition Five Decades, which in 2015 premiered at The School (Jack Shainman), Kinderhook, New York, toured to Carriageworks (in association with Sydney Festival), Sydney, Australia, in 2016. A major new work Kindred Viewpoints enveloped the façade of El Badi Palace during the 2016 Marrakech Biennale. In 2019, the monumental wall-hanging TSIATSIA – searching for connection, was installed in the atrium of Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town. The same year, the largest survey exhibition of El Anatsui's work to date Triumphant Scale was presented at the Haus der Kunst, Munich Germany, (the exhibition toured to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, 2019; and Kunstmuseum Bern, 2020) and the artist's works were featured in Ghana's first National Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale. In 2020, the exhibition In Search of Freedom was shown at the Conciergerie, Paris. The central installation in the exhibition was a collaboration between the artist and Factum Arte.
In 2014, El Anatsui was made an Honorary Royal Academician as well as elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2015, he was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia - All the World's Futures and in 2016, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University. In 2017, he was honoured with the Praemium Imperiale Award for Sculpture, the Japan Art Association, Tokyo, Japan.
In an interview with October Gallery, El Anatsui noted, "The amazing thing about working with these metallic 'fabrics' is that the poverty of the materials used in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories."
Text courtesy October Gallery.