EL ANATSUI


El Anatsui, Dusasa I Installation view, 52nd Annual Venice Biennale at the Arsenale curated by Robert Storr, 2007 aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire 288 x 360 inches, courtesy: Jack Shainman Gallery
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El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Anyanko, Ghana and studied Sculpture at the Faculty of Art at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. He is one of the most prestigious sculptors in the international art world and teaches Sculpture at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka since 1975.

El Anatsui is part of the postcolonial artists’ movement which emerged in West Africa in the 1960s and 70s, dealing with the social, political and historical aspects of the colonial period. His art implicates a wide range of critical observations and is as diverse as his choice of tools and creative procedures. His bottle top installation Fresh and Fading Memories during the Venice Biennale 2007, when he covered up the historical Palazzo Fortuny, was a sensation. What makes his work extraordinary is the transformation of small objects into monumental sculptures which in their symbolism and patterns are reminiscent of various African textile traditions, at the same time addressing modern, transregional networks and structures.

Major museums worldwide collect his work. Among them are the British Museum in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf.

El Anatsui lives and works in Nigeria.

 

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2016
El Anatsui: New Works, October Gallery, London, UK
El Anatsui: Five Decades, Carriageworks, Sydney Festival 2016, Sydney, Australia

2015
El Anatsui, October Gallery, London, UK
El Anatsui: Five Decades, Jack Shainman Gallery – The School, Kinderhook, New York, USA
El Anatsui of Dzi, Kunstbanken Hedmark Kunstsenter, Hamar, Norway

2014
El Anatsui – Theory of Se, Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Hong Kong
El Anatsui: Playing with Chance, Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria
El Anatsui: New Worlds, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA
El Anatsui: Trains of Thought, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, USA
El Anatsui, Mnuchin Gallery, New York, USA

2012-2015
Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Bass Museum of Art, Miami, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, USA

2009
Earth Growing Roots, SDSU University Art Gallery, San Diego State University, USA

2006
El Anatsui: Nyekor, Spazio Rossana Orlandi, Milan, Italy

2003-2008
El Anatsui: Gawu, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno, Wales, UK

1997
Hakpa, French Cultural Centre, Lagos, Nigeria

1995
El Anatsui, October Gallery, London, UK

1991
Old and New: An Exhibition of Sculpture in Assorted Wood, National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria

1987
Venovize: Ceramic Sculptures, Faculty of Arts and Design, Cornwall College, UK
Pieces of Wood: An Exhibition of Mural Sculpture, The Franco-German Auditorium, Lagos, Nigeria

1982
Sculptures, Photographs, Drawings, Goethe-Institut, Lagos, Nigeria

1980
Wood Carvings, Community for the Arts, Cummington, USA

1979
Broken Pots: Sculpture by El Anatsui, British Council Enugu/Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria

1976
Wooden Wall Plaques, Asele Art Gallery, Nsukka, Nigeria

 

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2016
Marrakech Biennale 6; Not New Now, Marrakech, Morocco

2015
Africa Africans, Museu Afro Brazil, São Paulo, Brazil
Field, Road, Cloud: Art and Africa, Anna K. Meredith Gallery, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Embracing Space and Color: Art On & Off the Wall, Vero Beach Museum of Art, USA
Meet Me Halfway: Selections from the Anita Reiner Collection, Cristin Tierney Gallery, Florida, USA
Re:Purposed, The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University, Sarasota, Florida, USA
Piece Work, Yale University School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Summer Exhibition 2015, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
Atopolis, Wiels in collaboration with Mons 2015, Manège de Sury, Mons, Belgium
PROPORTIO, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, Italy

2014
Mise En Scène, The School, Kinderhook, NY, USA
The Art of Our Time: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collections, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain

2013
245th Summer Exhibition, installation of sculpture on the façade of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
ArtZuid 2013, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Masters of the Transvangarde, October Gallery, London, UK
Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA

2012
El Gran Sur, 1st Montevideo Biennial, Montevideo, Uruguay
All Our Relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Intense Proximity,Paris Triennial 2012, Palais de Tokyo/ Musée Galliera, Paris, France
African Cosmos: Stellar Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA
Dialogues, Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
We Face Forward, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK

2011- 2012
Environment and Object: Recent African Art, Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, New York; Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, Vermont, USA
Architectural Environments for Tomorrow: New Spatial Practices in Architecture and Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan

2011
The World Belongs to You, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy
ARS 11, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland
Hunters and Gatherers: The Art of Assemblage, Sotheby’s, New York, USA
The Splendour of Truth, The Beauty of Charity, The Vatican, Rome, Italy

2010
Who Knows Tomorrow, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
Human Rites, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
A Collective Diary, an African Contemporary Journey, Herzilya Museum of Contemporary Art, Herzilya, Israel

2009
3rd Moscow Biennial, Moscow, Russia
Intramoenia Extra Art, Castelli di Puglia, Barletta Castle, Barletta, Italy
Chance Encounters: Seven Contemporary African Artists, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, India
Transvangarde: Leading Contemporary Artists, October Gallery, London, UK
Confines Extremos. Confines Urbanos, Institut Valencia D’Art Modern, Valencia, Spain
Off the Grid, Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Homecoming, Artists Alliance Gallery, Accra, Ghana
Promoter-of- Nigerian-Art Series, Goethe Institute, Lagos, Nigeria
Embrace! Denver Art Museum, Colorado, USA

2008
The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
World Histories, Des Moines Art Center, USA
Sonsbeek 2008: Grandeur, Sonsbeek Park, Arnhem, The Netherlands
Tapping Currents: Contemporary African Art and the Diaspora, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, USA

2007
52nd Venice Biennial, Italy
Altered, Stitched and Gathered, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, USA
8th Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates

2006
7th Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal

2004-2007
Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, Germany; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa

2004
5th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea

2003
Transferts, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

2002
Liverpool Biennial, UK

2001
Africas: The Artist and the City, CCCB – Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona, Spain

2000
El Tiempo de Africa, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

1998
9th Osaka Sculpture Triennale, Japan

1998
7. Triennale der Kleinplastik, Stuttgart, Germany

1997
The Poetics of Line – Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., USA

1996
Container ’96 – Art Across Oceans, Langelinie, Copenhagen, Denmark

1996
Transvangarde, October Gallery, London, UK

1995
1st Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa
Configura 2, Erfurt, Germany
An Inside Story – African Art of Our Time, Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK
8th Osaka Sculpture Triennale, Japan

1993
New Currents ’93 – Avant-Garde Nigerian Art, Didi Museum, Lagos, Nigeria
Arte Amazonas, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

1990
Five Contemporary African Artists, 44th Venice Biennial, Italy
Contemporary African Artists: Changing Tradition, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, USA

1986
AKA ’86 – Inaugural Exhibition of the AKA Circle of Artists, Alliance Française Enugu, Nigeria; Goethe-Institut, Lagos, Nigeria

1979
Christian Arts in Nigeria, Holy Trinity Cathedral Hall, Onitsha, Nigeria
The Nsukka School, Art Gallery of the Rivers State Council for Arts and Culture, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

1974
Tekarts Expo 5, Accra Arts Centre, Ghana

 

SELECTED AWARDS

2015 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia – All the World’s Futures, Venice, Italy

2013 Charles Wollaston Award, 245th Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London.

2009 Prince Claus Award, Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, Amsterdam

1999 Audience Award, 7. Triennale der Kleinplastik, Stuttgart

1998 Bronze Prize, 9th Osaka Sculpture Triennale

1995 Kansai Telecasting Corporation Prize, Osaka Sculpture Triennale

1990 Honorable Mention (joint), 44th Venice Biennial

1968 Honorable Mention, 1st Ghana National Art Competition, Accra

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

El Anatsui, New York 2009

El Anatsui: Gawu, Llandudno 2003

John Picton et al., El Anatsui: A Sculpted History of Africa, London 1998

Olu Oguibe, “Beyond Death and Nothingness”, in: African Arts, 31, 1, 1998, pp. 48–55

Gerard Houghton, “Ancestral Voices: El Anatsui”, in: World Sculpture News, 4, Spring 1998, pp. 32–37

Simon Ottenberg, “El Anatsui: Colorful Woods and Dark Lines”, in: New Traditions from Nigeria: Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group, Washington D.C. 1997, pp. 154–179

Chika Okeke-Agulu, “Slashing Wood, Eroding Culture: Conversation with El Anatsui”, in: Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, 1, 1994, pp. 34–40

Olu Oguibe, “El Anatsui in the Public Space”, in: Third Text, 23, Summer 1993, pp. 69–77

El Anatsui, “Sankofa: Go Back an’ Pick: Three Studio Notes and a Conversation”, in: Third Text, 23, Summer 2003, pp. 39–53

Alois Wokoun, “Hradby a Braby Sochare Anatsuiho”, in: Novy Orient, 44, November 1989, pp. 302–305.