El Anatsui

The Reinvention of Sculpture


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ISBN: 9788862087636 Category:

Chika Okeke-Agulu, Okwui Enwezor


Written by two acclaimed scholars Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, El Anatsui, is the most comprehensive, incisive and authoritative account yet on the work of El Anatsui, the world-renowned, Ghanaian-born sculptor. The product of more than three decades of research, scholarship and close collaboration with the artist, this book shows why his early wood reliefs and terracottas, and the later monumental metal sculptures, exemplify an innovative critical search for alternative models of art making.

The authors argue that the pervasiveness of fragmentation as a compositional device in Anatsui’s oeuvre invites meditation on the impact of colonization and postcolonial global forces on African cultures. At the same time, the simultaneous invocation of resilience and fragility across his media invests his abstract sculptures with iconic power.

Insisting on the intimate connection between form and idea in Anatsui’s work, the authors show how, in his critically acclaimed metal works, the manual work of flattening, cutting, twisting, and crushing bottle caps and using copper wires to suture and stitch the elements into one dazzling, reconfigurable epic piece serves as a powerful metaphor for the constitution of human society.

This book presents Anatsui as a visionary of incomparable imagination. Yet, it places his work within a broader historical context, specifically the postcolonial modernism of mid-twentieth-century African artists and writers, the cultural ferment of post-independence Ghana, as well as within the intellectual environment of the 1970s Nsukka School. By recovering these histories, and subjecting his work to vigorous analysis, the authors show how and why Anatsui became one of the most formidable sculptors of our time.

Additional information

Weight 2450 g
Dimensions 25 x 32.7 cm
Publisher name Damiani Editore
Publication date 23 June 2022
Number of pages 360
Format Hardback
Dimensions 25 x 32.7 cm
Weight 2450 g


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El Anatsui: (born, 1944, Anyako, Ghana) taught at the Specialist Training College in Winneba, Ghana (1969-75), and the University of Nigeria in Nsukka (1975-2016). Widely regarded as the greatest living African artist, he received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale (2015), the Praemium Imperiale Award for Sculpture (2017), Lorenzo il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award (2017), and he is Honorary Academician, British Royal Academy of Arts (2014). His works are in the collections of Centre Pompidou; The British Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Tate Modern; National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos; Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf, among others.

Okwui Enwezor (born, Awkuzu, Nigeria, 1963; died, Munich, Germany, 2019) was a critic, art historian, curator and founding publisher of Nka: Journal of Contemporary Africa Art. Acknowledged as one of the most influential curators of our time, he organized the biennales Johannesburg (1997), Seville (2006), Gwangju (2012), and Venice (2015); the La Triennale, Paris; and Documenta 11 (2002). His other groundbreaking exhibitions included The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, and Postwar: Art between the Atlantic and the Pacific, 1945-1964. He co-organized El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale (Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2019), the artists largest ever survey, and is co-author of Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2009). He received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (College Art Association, 2006) Chika Okeke-Agulu (born, 1966, Umuahia, Nigeria), is an artist, critic, art historian, and professor of African and African Diaspora Art, Princeton University. He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and the author of several books, including Postcolonial Modernism: Art & Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke, 2015). With Enwezor, he co-organized El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale and co-authored Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2009). His many prizes include The Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the most important scholarly work in African studies (African Studies Association, 2016), and Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (College Art Association, 2016)