Ghana’s El Anatsui unveils largest indoor work at London’s Tate Modern using discarded bottle tops

Dollita Okine October 17, 2023
The installation, titled "Behind the Red Moon," consists of three impressive pieces that showcase Anatsui's unique method of combining thousands of discarded bottle caps and metal from liquor bottles to create masterpieces. Photo Credit: El Anatsui

The renowned Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has revealed his largest indoor artwork at the Tate Modern, in its Turbine Hall. The installation, titled “Behind the Red Moon,” consists of three impressive pieces that showcase Anatsui’s unique method of combining thousands of discarded bottle caps and metal from liquor bottles to create masterpieces.

The work, which was commissioned by Hyundai, is now open to the public at the Tate Modern until April 14, 2024. “With the commission, I was thinking about how I’ve developed a way of of working, which is using material that is linked in a way with the histories of peoples… Europe, Africa, America,” Anatsui remarked, according to Artsy. “There’s a lot of labor that is involved in doing the work, and when we talk about the three continents, labor is a very crucial element.”

According to a statement, the first act begins with “The Red Moon,” a billowing form in shades of crimson and yellow. This sail-like design brings back memories of the ships that transported Africans and their resources during the slave trade era.

Next, “The World” features delicate golden fragments resembling human figures, suspended and unsettled by their journey. The installation concludes with “The Wall,” a colossal piece symbolizing the end of a voyage. The undulating ripples at its base resemble a rocky coastline with waves crashing ashore.

Co-curator Dina Akhmadeeva said, “El Anatsui came to the Turbine Hall on a number of site visits, as artists that we commission, of course, to do. And when he entered, one of the most vivid memories that I have is that he spoke of it as a ship. And for El Anatsui the histories of migration and movement of goods and people have been absolutely embedded in the material that he works with.”

“So the aluminum bottle top is a kind of marker of an industry that was formed on colonial trade routes that connected Europe, Africa, and the Americas,” Akhmadeeva explained, according to Africa News.

The creation of the art installation started in 2022 and was brought to life by Anatsui’s team of over 60 people based in Nigeria and Ghana.

Tate director Karin Hindsbo said at a press conference that “[Anatsui’s] highly innovative approach to sculpture and his unique choice of materials are instantly recognizable. And the themes he addresses all resonate as strongly today as ever: the evolution of human civilization, its long histories…of migration, power, and decolonization, and the elemental power of the natural world. All of this made him an evident choice for the Hyundai Commission,” according to Artsy.

Dooeun Choi, the art director of Hyundai Motor, which sponsors the annual commission, stated that the Turbine Hall Commission is awarded to an artist whose work challenges conventions and resonates with a global audience.

He said of the famous artist, “The artistic trajectory of El Anatsui transcends geographical boundaries, cultural context, and artistic domains.”

According to Africa News, Tate Modern has been trying to broaden its collections in recent years in order to reflect a more diversified art world that is less centered on white, European-centric pieces.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 17, 2023


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