El Anatsui, a prominent artist from Ghana, has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023.
He is the only Ghanaian who made the annual list, featuring in the ‘Artists’ category, joining notables including Michael B. Jordan, Ali Wong, Salma Ayek Pinault, Zoe Saldana, Simone Leigh, and Suzan Lori-Parks.
El Anatsui was honored at the 17th annual TIME100 Gala held on Wednesday, at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City, USA.
Other prominent people in the 2023 edition of TIME100 Most Influential People are US President Joe Biden, football stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, King Charles, Salman Rushdie and Olena Zelenska.
Tribute to El Anatsui
Chika Okeke-Agulu, Art Historian at Princeton University, in a tribute to El Anatsui, said “El Anatsui is one of the most impactful artists of our time. As a sculptor, he shows an incomparable capacity to experiment with his materials, medium, and process.
El collects diverse materials, puts them aside in his studio for years, and then returns to them intermittently until he figures out the right language for inventing completely new sculptural forms.
The breathtaking combination of experimental rigor and inspired vision turns such unassuming materials as printer’s plates or liquor-bottle caps into magnificent constructions and compositions displayed around the world, from a recent solo show in Seoul to his upcoming commission at London’s Tate Modern.
Less public, but just as important, is El’s unflinching generosity of spirit. As his career grew, so has his remarkable propensity to support not just other artists but also individuals, families, and institutions in his community in Nsukka and across Nigeria. And he does all this without fanfare as if it is only but a life mission. That, for me, is the mark of greatness”.
El Anatsui Short Profile
El Anatsui is a Ghanaian sculptor who has spent much of his achievement-packed career living and working in Nigeria. He currently runs a very robust studio practice, situated in Nsukka, Enugu, Nigeria, and Tema, Ghana, where some of the most beautiful and touching works of art in the world today are created.
El Anatsui is one of the most highly acclaimed artists in African History and the foremost contemporary artist in the world. He uses resources typically discarded such as liquor bottle caps, cassava graters and newspaper printing plates to create a sculpture that defies categorization.
His use of these materials reflects his interest in reuse, transformation, and an intrinsic desire to connect to his continent while transcending the limitations of place. His work can interrogate the history of colonialism and draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment, but at the core is his unique formal language that distinguishes his practice.
Anatsui is well-known for large-scale sculptures composed of thousands of folded and crumpled pieces of aluminium bottle caps sourced from local alcohol recycling stations and bound together with copper wire. These intricate works, which can grow to be massive in scale, are luminous and weighty, meticulously fabricated yet malleable. He leaves the installations open and encourages the works to take new forms every time they are installed.
His sculptures have been collected by major international museums, including the British Museum, London, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the de Young Museum, San Francisco, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim, and the Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf. In 2015 El Anatsui was awarded the Venice Biennale art exhibition’s Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement.
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