Denver Art Museum presents El Anatsui. When I Last Wrote to You about Africa exhibition

. September 20, 2012

Denver Art Museum presents El Anatsui. When I Last Wrote to You about Africa an exhibition on view 09/09/2012 – 12/30/2012.


El Anatsui, Sacred Moon, 2007. Aluminum and copper wire. Photo courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa traces the prolific career of El Anatsui, one of contemporary art’s leading figures, from his early woodwork in Ghana to today’s metal wall sculptures created in his studio in Nigeria, offering an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to follow the artist’s creative development and process throughout 40 years. The exhibition, more than 60 works, includes eight spectacular metal wall sculptures made from thousands of bottle caps as well as numerous works from the artist’s own collection. This is Anatsui’s most comprehensive exhibition to date. Organized by the Museum for African Art (MfAA), New York, the exhibition will be on view in the level four galleries in the Hamilton Building

When I Last Wrote to You about Africa brings together the full range of the artist’s work, from early wood trays, to ceramics and wooden sculptures, to the luminous metal wall sculptures which have brought him international acclaim. It explores Anatsui’s unique practice of transforming simple materials—often discarded or overlooked pieces such as driftwood, milk tins and bottle tops—into striking works of art that tell personal and universal stories.

In 2008, the DAM’s native arts department commissioned Rain Has No Father?, a 13 ft., 2 in. tall by 19 ft., 9 in. wide tapestry, which Anatsui created out of found liquor bottle tops and copper wire. The artwork debuted as part of Embrace!, a site-specific exhibition celebrating the unique architecture of the Daniel Libeskind-designed Hamilton Building in 2010. Today it hangs in the African art galleries, adjacent to the retrospective display. Visitors can make direct connections between the stunning metal wall sculpture and the comprehensive collection of Anatsui’s work hanging a few feet away.

The exhibition is accompanied by the richly illustrated catalogue, El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa, with contributions by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University; Lisa Binder, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum for African Art, New York; Olu Oguibe, Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Connecticut; Chika Okeke-Agulu, Assistant Professor Art and Archaeology at Princeton University; and Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art. After the DAM, the exhibition will travel to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, February 2–April 28, 2013.

El Anatsui was born in Ghana in 1944. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sculpture and a postgraduate diploma in art education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He began teaching at the University of Nigeria in 1975 and went on to head the Fine and Applied Arts Department from 1998 to 2000. He held the title of Professor of Sculpture prior to retiring in 2011.

Anatsui’s work has appeared in group exhibitions at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA; the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; the Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland; and in international exhibitions such as Africa Remix (2005-2007) and The Missing Peace (2006-2011). His work has also been selected for numerous biennial exhibitions, including in Venice (1990 and 2007), Havana (1994), Johannesburg (1995), Gwangju (2004), Sharjah (2009), Paris Triennial (2012) and the Biennale of Sydney (2012). Solo exhibitions include Gawu, on view in Europe, North America and Asia (2004-2008), Gli at the Rice University Art Gallery, Houston (2010), A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan (2010) and El Anatsui at the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (2011). In 2008, Anatsui received the Visionaries Artist Award from the Museum of Arts and Design, in New York City. He is also a laureate of the 2009 Prince Claus Award.

The Denver Art Museum is located on 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock Streets in downtown Denver. Open Tuesday– Thursday, Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.–8 p.m., except the final Friday of the month January–October when the museum stays open until 10 p.m. for the Untitled event; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission for Colorado residents: $10 adults, $8 seniors and students. Admission for non-Colorado residents: $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $5 for visitors aged six to eighteen, free for children under 6.GeneralMuseum admission is free the first Saturday of each month, thanks to Target and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Additional ticket may be required for special exhibitions. The Cultural Complex Garage is open; enter from 12th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock or check the DAM website for up-to-date parking information. For information in Spanish, call 720-913-0169. For more information, call 720-865-5000 or visit www.denverartmuseum.org

Category: Exhibition News

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