Respected and renowned worldwide, especially since being awarded the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Biennale for Lifetime Achievement, El Anatsui is known for his sculptures fashioned from wood and clay and his complex assemblages of recycled materials. In the late 1970s, he gave precedence to using glass shards and pieces of broken ceramic. Two decades later, he shaped his first pieces of “fabric” from “poor materials”.
El Anatsui is inspired by the human traditions of recycling and finding new uses for old used objects, and he has skillfully turned this into the mainspring of the creative process. His works reflect upon global trade and the destruction and transformation of materials - symbols of the events faced by the African continent.
The great Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has designed an extraordinary hill made from logs, scrap materials and an array of printing plates in sparkling colours at the heart of the Historic Grounds.
El Anatsui was born in Anyako, Ghana, in 1944. He lives and works in Nsukka, Nigeria. Graduating from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana (1969), he rounded off his classical training with an apprenticeship in the ancient techniques of the “ashanti” culture, embracing engravings, ceramics and pottery for example. In the 1970s, he joined the group of Nigerian artists Nsukka, associated with the University of Nigeria. He taught at the University of Nigeria from 1975 to 2011.
In 1990, he was one of five artists selected to represent Africa at the 44th Venice Biennale.
He has exhibited his work the world over: Mnuchin Gallery, New York (2014); Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2014); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2013); Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio, USA (2012) (touring exhibition (2012-2015): Gravity and grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, California); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (The Clark), Williamstown (2011); National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka (2010); Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2010) (touring exhibition (2010-2012): El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote To You About Africa); National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka (2010) (touring exhibition (2010-2011): A fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui); Rice University Art Gallery, Houston (2010); Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2013, 2010, 2008); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2008); National Museum for African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington; 52nd Venice Biennale (2007); Biennale of African Art, Senegal (2006); Hayward Gallery (2005); Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, Germany (2004) (touring exhibition (2004-2007): Afrika Remix; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Mori art Museum, Tokyo; Moderna Museet, Stockholm); Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea (2004); the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington (2000-2001); the Centro de Cultura Contemporania Barcelona (CCCB, 2001); 8th Osaka Sculpture Triennale (1995); 44th Venice Biennale (1990).
In 2013, he won the prestigious Charles Wollaston Award for his piece TSIATSIA - searching for connection, 2013. This gigantic shimmering wall work, woven together from scrap materials, covered the whole façade of Burlington House during the 2013 summer exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (Royal Academy’s 245th Summer Exhibition).
In 2014, El Anatsui was elected as an Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
El Anatsui is represented by: Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; October Gallery, London; Inception Gallery, Paris, France.