Posted on October 01, 2019

Triumphant Scale, the largest ever survey mounted of the work of the acclaimed artist El Anatsui – born in 1944 in Ghana – and perhaps Africa’s most prominent living artist, opened today at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, a member of Qatar Foundation.  The exhibition was officially opened by HE Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani, and was attended by Mr. Ahmad Al Namla, Acting CEO at Qatar Museums, and a number of VIP guests.

As the exhibition title suggests, the survey, curated by the late OkwuiEnwezor, poet, art critic, art historian and curator and Chika Okeke-Agulu, Professor of Art History at the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, focuses on the triumphant and monumental quality of Anatsui’s sculptures. The exhibition encompasses every medium in the artist’s prodigious 50 year career, including the signature bottle-cap series developed over the last two decades, wood sculptures and wall reliefs spanning the mid-1970’s to the late 1990’s; ceramic sculptures of the late 1970’s, as well as drawings, prints and books. 

The exhibition is spread across ten separate gallery spaces in Mathaf.  Amongst the works isLogoligi Logarithm, a specially created installation for the gallery’s performance space. Structurally related to his 2010 work Gli (Wall), in this complex site-specific work, the diaphanous form is achieved through the stitching patterns developed by Anatsui and his assistants using thin bottle cap seals. Logoligi Logarithm’s alluring play of light and material recalls the refraction of sunlight in a mist or fog. The work is dedicated to the Ghanaian poet, AtukweiOkai, who died in 2018.

Abdellah Karroum, Director, Mathaf, said: “I am proud that Mathaf is hosting this important exhibition, the first major show in the Middle East for El Anatsui, now regarded as one of Africa’s greatest living artists. This exhibition also stands for the close working relationship we have enjoyed with Okwui Enwezor over many years.  We are grateful for the immense legacy he has left us as an art historian and curator.We look forward to welcoming audiences in Doha for what we believe will be a boundary breaking exhibition for the region and a fitting celebration of a great artist.”

El Anatsui has consistently worked to transform the formal possibilities of African sculptural idioms. Over 50 years, he has repeatedly revised and reinvented his material and compositional techniques to astonishing effect - from the early smaller wooden reliefs with their incised markings and broken ceramic forms, to the monumental outdoor cement sculptures, and, more recently, the vast and spectacular metal wall and floor works, which blur the boundaries between sculpture, painting and assemblage. The artist generates meaning out of his material and technical process. For example, the bottle caps come from hard liquors introduced by Europeans as currency - and thus a means of subjugation - during the era of transatlantic slavery and colonisation. The process of cutting, flattening, squeezing, twisting, folding and stitching together with copper wire thousands of these bottle caps into a single work, speaks to the making of human communities out of connected individual subjectivities.

Mathaf hosts El Anatsui’s first 3 [qatarisbooming.com].jpg

The exhibition is organised by Haus der Kunst, Munich in cooperation with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, the Kunstmuseum Bern and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Following its showing at Mathaf, the exhibition will move to the Kunstmuseum Bern from March 13 to June 21, 2020; and then to Guggenheim Bilbao from July 17 to November 1, 2020.

Prestel will publish an exhibition catalogue of 320 pages, with extensive illustrations from the artist's archive, authored by Okwui Enwezor and Okeke-Agulu.

El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale 

1 October 2019 – 31 January 2020
Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art 
Education City, Doha, Qatar
Open daily 9 am to 7 pm, except Friday 1.30 pm – 7 pm. 
Admission is free. For more information, please visit: www.mathaf.org,qa

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