The internet was very intense and kinda all over the place this week. Highlights: El Anatsui, Rihanna and Lorna Simpson collaborate, Zendaya, the oral history of Wikipedia, Georgia oranges, members of Congress might have helped plan the attack on the Capitol, federal death row, “TRUMP” was carved into a manatee, and Azealia Banks’ cat.
Before reading this, I don’t know if I had ever read an article, profile, or interview of El Anatsui. The first time I learned about and saw Anatsui’s work was on a Kansas City Art Institute recruiting trip in high school. As part of the trip, we got a special tour of the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum and a piece by Anatsui was highlighted in the collection. Since then, most of my knowledge of the artist has come from short, one-paragraph blurbs in art history textbooks, brief mentions in lectures, or wall labels in museums.
I think part of the reason I never delved into Anatsui’s practice is because of how ubiquitous his work is. Best known for “cascading metal mosaics” made of bottle caps, Anatsui’s work sells for millions, and “[m]useums don them like regalia, as though to signal their graduation into an enlightened cosmopolitan modernity; they have graced, among other landmarks, the façades of London’s Royal Academy, Venice’s Museo Fortuny, and Marrakech’s El Badi Palace.” Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of contemporary art knows the name El Anatsui, or at the very least can describe his work.
I had known the sweeping gesture of Anatsui’s career, but I didn’t know many details about it or his life, which Julian Lucas beautifully builds this profile on while also describing the politics of the global art market.