In 2019 Haus der Kunst will present a wide-ranging survey of the work of the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui (born 1944, Anyako, Ghana). Perhaps Africa’s most prominent living artist, the exhibition, the largest and most complex ever mounted on the artist, will cover key strands and artistic concerns in his protean fifty-year career. As suggested by the title, the presentation will focus on the triumphant and monumental quality of Anatsui’s sculpture, from the well-known works in the signature bottle-cap and woven aluminum strips developed in the last two decades to the wood sculptures and reliefs from the 1970s to 1990s, to the ceramic sculptures of 1970s, and installations, drawings, prints, and books. In addition, Anatsui will create several new sculptures responding to the monumental architecture of the museum, including a grand outdoor work on the building’s façade.
Since the late 1960s Anatsui has developed a conceptually rich, textured, and varied command of the plastic possibilities of sculpture. At the same time, he has insistently puzzled with how an autonomous and contemporary sculptural model can be created amidst the abundant sculptural innovation found within classical African art canons. His early works were based on the simplicity and humility of readily available materials. Yet these materials and their existence as quotidian or artisanal objects contained a critical response to the formalism of the western academic rules in which he was trained as an art student, and the traditional African sculptural forms that surrounded him.
“El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale” will unfold his unparalleled reworking of the sculptural object, by offering an entirely new understanding of the dialectical relationship between sculpture’s physical presence and its capacity to convey new historical meaning.