We've reached the last days during which you can visit the – quite literally – triumphant exhibition with the work of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui in Munich. Those who won't make it there in time, we'd like to introduce to the sculptor and his unique, ground-breaking oeuvre with this report.
With a career spanning over five decades, it is inevitable that an artist has built up a rich and varied portfolio. This also applies to El Anatsui (°1944), who was born in Ghana and is today probably the most important living African artist. It was high time, according to Haus der Kunst in Munich, to put his works in the spotlight in a large-scale exhibition. And the fact that the museum for contemporary art saw it bit, also has a lot to do with the scale of the works. Titled El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale, the many sculptural reliefs truly overwhelm visitors standing in front of them.
"I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up."
A few years ago, El Anatsui said the following: "Art grows out of each particular situation, and I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up." He is therefore a great advocate of the reuse of material that is readily available in his environment. Many of his wall coverings, reliefs that resemble draped canvases, are actually made from bottle caps, recycled aluminium and copper wire. The drawings presented in this exhibition, in turn, are made on paper that the artist has found in hotels or restaurants. If he has an idea, he simply turns to a material that is close by or that he can easily find.Another theme that is present in much of Anatsui's creations is time and the inevitability of change. The installations are often a metaphor for a popular African saying that 'no condition is permanent'. His reliefs are very flexible and will therefore inevitably take on a different form with each new installation. Once again and even more obvious, the situation and environment determine the work of art.
"Monumental and ambitious works that will not leave you untouched."
What is extra unique about the current exhibition in Munich is that El Anatsui was also given the chance to work his magic on the museum's exterior facade. The result, entitled Second Wave, is a dialogue between the static (the building) and the dynamic (undulating panels). Moreover, it is Anatsui's largest work ever, and here, too, the material comes from local sources: printing plates from a Munich newspaper and a printer of art books from Bolzano, which are also covered with newspaper. The 22 undulating panels represent a metaphor for the flow of information that we have to deal with today, but also for the history and evolution of the museum. Once again there is an important connection between the work, its form, location and subject.
Last spring you could see El Anatsui's work in the two Axel Vervoordt Galleries in Wijnegem and Hong Kong, but also in Bologna and Santa Fe, for example, there are currently exhibitions with his work. This won’t be the last time you’ll hear from him!