EL ANATSUI (B. 1944)
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EL ANATSUI (B. 1944)


EL ANATSUI (B. 1944)
aluminium bottle caps and copper wire
124 x 137 ¾in. (315 x 350cm.)
Executed in 2015
Zeitz MOCAA Benefit sale, Christie's London, 8 March 2017, lot 197 (donated by the artist).
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L. Pereira, ‘The Recipient of the Venice Biennale Golden Lion El Anatsui is Opening an Exhibition at October Gallery London’, in WIDEWALLS, January 2016 (illustrated in colour).
T. Sowole, ‘After Venice Biennale Glory, Anatsui Shows New Works in London’, in The Guardian Nigeria News, 31 January 2016 (illustrated in colour).
A. Shaw, ‘El Anatsui unveils new bottle-top works in London’, in The Art Newspaper, 4 February 2016.
Hamar, Kunstbanken Senter for Samtidskunst, El Anatsui: Of Dzi, 2015.
London, October Gallery, El Anatsui: New Works, 2016, p. 7 (illustrated in colour, front cover and p. 22).

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Spanning three-and-a-half metres across, Warrior is a grand, shimmering example of El Anatsui’s iconic bottle-top sculptures. It was created in 2015: the same year that the artist won the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 56th Venice Biennale. Made from thousands of flattened aluminium bottle-tops threaded together with copper wire, it represents a development in these works in its depiction of a legible human figure. Anatsui brings the title’s character to life in a scintillating, mosaic-like drapery. Picked out in gleaming gold, the warrior leaps through four black diagonals that have the momentum of spears or arrows: his limbs flicker with motion as if caught in a multiple exposure. The dark shafts and the warrior’s head protrude from the hanging’s rectangular plane. Woven together in one continuous layer of metal, he is at once enmeshed in and escapes the rippling background, imbuing Anatsui’s painterly sculpture with a heroic dynamism.

Born and educated in Ghana, Anatsui moved to Nsukka, Nigeria in 1975, where he taught for nearly four decades at the University of Nigeria. He came across his signature medium by chance when he found a roadside heap of bottle-tops on the city’s outskirts in 1998. Occupied with other used metals at the time, including cassava graters and evaporated milk cans, he kept the bottle-tops in his studio for two years before assembling them into a sculpture. Having been drawn to them as a malleable, colourful and versatile material, he soon realised that they were suffused with history, evoking the triangular links between Africa, Europe and the West Indies. ‘Objects such as these were introduced to Africa by Europeans when they came as traders’, he explains. ‘Alcohol was one of the commodities brought with them to exchange for goods in Africa. Eventually alcohol became one of the items used in the transatlantic slave trade. They made rum in the West Indies, took it to Liverpool, and then it made its way back to Africa’ (E. Anatsui, quoted in S. M. Vogel, El Anatsui: Art and Life, Munich 2012, pp. 53-54).

By stitching the bottle-tops together, Anatsui weaves a conceptual tapestry from these economic and social narratives, speaking to the complex fabric of a post-colonial world. Their interconnectedness also extends from the macro to the micro, capturing the impact of collective, globalised forces upon individual lives. ‘When I saw the bottle tops, what struck me was that they are from bottles that have been used,’ he has said. ‘... People have really drunk from these bottles, and therefore human hands have left a charge on them’ (E. Anatsui, quoted in L. Leffler James, ‘Convergence: History, Materials, and the Human Hand—An Interview with El Anatsui’, Art Journal, vol. 67, no. 2, Summer 2008, p. 38). In Warrior, Anatsui transforms these discarded everyday materials into a sculpture of talismanic beauty. Its opulent palette and billowing surface evoke the grandeur of Abstract Expressionist painting, as well as traditional Ghanaian Kente cloth; its reflections recall the glittering glory of Byzantine mosaics. The valiant warrior emerges into space, embodying the work’s monumental human spirit and the near-miraculous alchemy of Anatsui’s practice.

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