El Anatsui

El Anatsui (b. 1944) is a Ghanaian sculptor renowned for his transformative use of simple, everyday objects into totemic assemblages, sculptures and installations. Born in Anyako, Ghana, Anatsui studied at the College of Art, University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. The artist now lives and works in Nigeria. Internationally acclaimed in the contemporary art circle, he is also one of the most important artists in African history.

Anatsui’s early work primarily involved wooden sculptures, often carved with traditional tools, reflecting his interest in indigenous African traditions and the cultural history of his homeland. However, his artistic journey took a turn when he began experimenting with unconventional materials such as metal and bottle caps. This shift marked the beginning of his most celebrated and recognisable works.

In the late 1990s, Anatsui started creating large-scale installations made from recycled aluminium bottle caps, which he meticulously stitched together with copper wire to form expansive, shimmering tapestries. These works, which can span entire walls, are celebrated for their intricate beauty and the profound commentary they offer on consumerism, waste, and the global economy. In 2023 Christie’s sold El Anatsui’s 2012 bottle-cap assemblage Prophet for US$2,228,000, a world auction record for the artist.

Anatsui’s works are not just visually captivating but also deeply symbolic. They often reference themes such as colonialism, slavery and the complex history of Africa’s cultural exchange with the rest of the world. His choice of materials — often sourced from liquor bottles — reflects the trade and consumption patterns that link Africa with Europe and the Americas, evoking the continent’s historical and economic entanglements.

The artist participated in the Venice Biennale in 1990 and 2007, and received a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 2009. These accolades brought him global recognition and established him as a leading figure in contemporary art. His works have since been featured in major exhibitions and collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

El Anatsui (b. 1944)

Recycled Dreams (Uniting the World with a Stitch)

EL ANATSUI (B. 1944)

Drying Line

EL ANATSUI (B. 1944)

Rare crowd series no7

EL ANATSUI (b. 1944)

Variation I_C

EL ANATSUI (B. 1944)

Illusions and Signs Series No. IV