El Anatsui’s maiden Mideast solo exhibition opens at Mathaf

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art yesterday launched acclaimed Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s first solo exhibition in the Middle East which is the largest ever survey mounted of the work of perhaps Africa’s most prominent living artist.

Dubbed “El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale,” the exhibition was officially opened by H E Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani, and attended by Ahmad Al Namla, Acting CEO at Qatar Museums, and a number of VIP guests.

The  survey — curated by the late poet and art critic Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, Professor of Art History at the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University — focuses on the triumphant and monumental quality of Anatsui’s sculptures. 

Spread across ten gallery spaces, the exhibition encompasses every medium in the artist’s prodigious 50 year career, including the signature bottle-cap series developed over the last two decades, wood sculptures and wall reliefs spanning the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, ceramic sculptures of the late 1970s, as well as drawings, prints and books.  Amongst the prominent works on show is Logoligi Logarithm, a specially created installation for the gallery’s performance space. Structurally related to his 2010 work Gli (Wall), in this complex site-specific work, the diaphanous form is achieved through the stitching patterns developed by Anatsui and his assistants using thin bottle cap seals. Logoligi Logarithm’s alluring play of light and material recalls the refraction of sunlight in a mist or fog. The work is dedicated to the Ghanaian poet, AtukweiOkai, who died in 2018.

Abdellah Karroum, Director, Mathaf, said: “I am proud that Mathaf is hosting this important exhibition, the first major show in the Middle East for El Anatsui, now regarded as one of Africa’s greatest living artists. This exhibition also stands for the close working relationship we have enjoyed with Okwui Enwezor over many years.  We are grateful for the immense legacy he has left us as an art historian and curator. We look forward to welcoming audiences in Doha for what we believe will be a boundary breaking exhibition for the region and a fitting celebration of a great artist.”

El Anatsui has consistently worked to transform the formal possibilities of African sculptural idioms. Over 50 years, he has repeatedly revised and reinvented his material and compositional techniques to astonishing effect - from the early smaller wooden reliefs with their incised markings and broken ceramic forms, to the monumental outdoor cement sculptures, and, more recently, the vast and spectacular metal wall and floor works, which blur the boundaries between sculpture, painting and assemblage. 

The artist generates meaning out of his material and technical process. For example, the bottle caps come from hard liquors introduced by Europeans as currency - and thus a means of subjugation - during the era of transatlantic slavery and colonisation. The process of cutting, flattening, squeezing, twisting, folding and stitching together with copper wire thousands of these bottle caps into a single work, speaks to the making of human communities out of connected individual subjectivities.

The exhibition, which runs until October 31, is organised by Haus der Kunst, Munich in cooperation with Mathaf, the Kunstmuseum Bern and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. 

As seen on Peninsula Qatar  Image Credits Peninsula Qatar