Born in Anyako, Ghana (1944)
El Anatsui is a Ghanaian sculptor active for much of his career in Nigeria. He has drawn particular international attention for his iconic "bottle-top installations" distinctive large-scale assemblages of thousands of pieces of aluminium sourced from alcohol recycling stations and sewn together with copper wire, transformed into metallic cloth-like wall sculptures in a way that can "draw connections between consumption, waste, and the environment."
Many of Anatsui’s sculptures are mutable in form, conceived to be so free and flexible that they can be shaped in any way and altered in appearance for each installation. Working with wood, clay, metal, and—most recently—the discarded metal caps of liquor bottles, Anatsui breaks with sculpture’s traditional adherence to forms of fixed shape while visually referencing the history of abstraction in African and European art. The colorful and densely patterned fields of the works assembled from discarded liquor-bottle caps also trace a broader story of colonial and postcolonial economic and cultural exchange in Africa, told in the history of cast-off materials.
El Anatsui has exhibited his work at major galleries around the world and at major museums including Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In 2017 he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale, the first Ghanaian to win the international art prize.