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Taking place at the Arts Club Dubai is a new exhibition with the world-renowned artist El Anatsui, featuring a major installation, Detsi, composed of aluminium bottle caps and copper wire. A truly ground-breaking artist of his time, El Anatsui has transformed ideas about fine art through material, form and concepts in his practice, with works shown in and collected by the most significant museums and collections internationally. He has been a key influence on younger generations and a trail-blazer in gaining international recognition for African artists around the world.
In his 50 plus year career as an artist, El Anatsui has consistently focused on the language of materials, transforming mediums such as ceramic, paper, wood and other kinds of metal into radical and non-conformist forms of art. He is best-known for his stunning abstract sculptures made out of used bottle caps sourced locally, drawing attention to the profound impact of globalism, as well as building a dialogue about sustainability and the environmental impact of throw away culture and waste. Installed in varying undulations or in free fall across surfaces, and offering creative freedom to those involved in each installation as the work adapts to spaces and sensibilities, his work challenges traditional ideas both of the picture plane and of sculpture as free-standing and rigid, instead embracing the fluid and ever-changing. In the words of the artist, “Art is a reflection on life. Life isn’t something we can cut and fix. It’s always in a state of flux.”
The upcoming presentation of El Anatsui at The Arts Club will mark the continuation of the Journey of Detsi and Speaks to the malleability of El Anatsui’s work, whereby each time Detsi is exhibited, it takes up an entirely new form, in an almost unrecognisable state to previous times it has been exhibited. The creation of Detsi began in 2008 and remained in Anatsui’s studio for 13 years until it’s completion in 2021. Detsi was first exhibited at Efie Gallery’s debut exhibition where the installed piece elegantly stretched along the walls of the temporary art pavilion meticulously architected by Alice Asafu-Adjaye, before later being featured in Shard Song, El Anatsui’s first solo exhibition in Dubai, where the work could be seen to cascade down the walls of the two-storey Efie Gallery.
The title of the work, which originates from the mother tongue of the artist, was inspired by the prominent red hues of the work. In the Ewe language, it has multiple meanings which feeds into the artist’s desire for the titles of his works to have ambiguous meaning. Detsi signifies redness, it means soup which turns a rich shade of red when made with the palm fruit. The palm tree itself is also called Detsi. Abstract and multiform in its different iterations, Detsi is a stunning work of imagination, both for the artist and those viewing it.
El Anatsui was born in Ghana and currently lives and works between Ghana and Nigeria. In 2015 he was awarded the Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is included in numerous private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington; the Akron Art Museum, Ohio; St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri; Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf; the Setagaya Museum, Tokyo, The Vatican Museum and the British Museum, London, England. He has been shown in such major biennials and museums as the Venice Biennale, the Royal Academy London, and many more.
The show is commissioned by The Arts Club Dubai, curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes. We are extremely grateful to El Anatsui for his profound and singular vision; and to Efie Gallery, Dubai – without whom this show would not have been possible.