Over a dazzling career spanning more than five decades, El Anatsui has become one of the most acclaimed contemporary artists of our time. His sculptures employing an extraordinary range of media and many uncommon materials have investigated a broad array of different subjects. As the new century dawned, his early explorations in clay and tropical hardwoods gradually gave way to inventive, new strategies designed to repurpose various found materials: iron graters, milk-tin lids and — most famously — aluminium bottle-tops. Today, El Anatsui is best known for his mesmerising metallic installations, composed of tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of individual bottle-tops fastened together with copper wire. Over the past two decades, these shape-shifting sculptural forms have graced the inner and, more recently, the outer walls of an increasing number of major art institutions around the world.
TimeSpace comprises new works alongside examples of earlier works that give insight, add context and help explain the development of this hugely influential artist. This exhibition combines new bottle-top wall sculptures with several earlier works made in wood, clay and on paper.
Taking a long-perspective view of his extraordinary career, the exhibition examines the way El Anatsui has, for decades, developed surprising and novel directions that have brought about an unexpected synthesis between African and Western practices. In so doing he has reshaped and profoundly affected the direction of contemporary sculpture, as acknowledged by the Golden Lion awarded to him in 2015 for his lifetime of achievement in the arts. El Anatsui’s sophisticated and deftly organised sculptures represent an original and unique synthesis of the diverse histories of African art with selected influences appropriated from the paradigms of contemporary Western practice.