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Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation, second-right, speaks with Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, Centre, next to Jonathan Gimmel, President of the Museum of Arts, Bern, second-left, and Kathleen Buehler, Kurator and Head of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Arts, Bern, left, during a visit of the Exhibition hanging of ‘ El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale. Photo: AP

Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo Ado, went in to see some of the work already installed for the third leg of El Antsui’s global travelling exhibition, Triumphant Scale, the at the Kunstmuseum, Bern, in Switzerland, last week.

His visit was a loud statement in terms of West Africa’s cultural politics.

Nigeria and Ghana both claim Anatsui, who was born in Anyako, in the Volta Region of Ghana, and rose to prominence in a 50 year career entirely forged in the crucible of the Nigerian experience.

Anatsui, dressed in an artwork

Nigerian and Ghanaian Ambassadors to Switzerland will be invited to the show’s opening on March 13, but Nigeria is still sulking about the party last time.

Whereas the Ghanaian embassy was duly informed and had a strong presence, Nigerian diplomatic office wasn’t properly invited to the opening of the Qatar leg of the show, at the Mathaf Arab Museum in Doha, an event which took place on Nigeria’s Independence Day October 1, 2019. The Nigerian ambassador learned of it and showed up, lamenting his being passed by. The show in Bern is taking the baton from the Doha exhibition, which lasted four months, closing on January 31, 2020.

El Anatsui, Rising Sea (Detail), 2019, Installation view Haus der Kunst, Photo Maximilian Geuter, Courtesy the artist and Haus der Kunst

Kunstmuseum, Bern will show Triumphant Scale until June 2020 and the works will move from there to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, where the show opens July 16, 2020 and closes November 1, 2020

Curated by the late Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, Triumphant Scale is the largest exhibition ever mounted for El Anatsui’s art.

It incorporates every medium the artist has worked in over the last half century, including wood and ceramic sculptures, wall reliefs, and drawings. The show demonstrates Anatsui’s invention of a completely new and unique sculptural form and visual language drawn from his context of production, the curators say.

Okeke-Agulu, who is a professor of African art history at Princeton, says on the University’s website: “At the core of the exhibition, which focuses on the triumphant and monumental nature of El Anatsui’s groundbreaking oeuvre, are the bottle-cap works from the last two decades, with their majestic, imposing presence and dazzling colours. The exhibition also presents the lesser-known wood sculptures and wall reliefs from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, ceramic sculptures from the 1970s, as well as drawings, prints, and sketchbooks”.

“Whereas the Ghanaian embassy was duly informed and had a strong presence, Nigerian diplomatic office wasn’t properly invited to the opening of the Qatar leg of the show, at the Mathaf Arab Museum in Doha, an event which took place on Nigeria’s Independence Day October 1, 2019”.

He argues: ”Triumphant Scale reveals the artist’s tireless preoccupation with the question of how a contemporary sculptural concept can be developed from the rich plastic innovations of classical and traditional African art. El Anatsui has persistently worked to transform the formal and sculptural possibilities of African sculptural idioms and, over fifty 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. In El Anatsui’s hands, light, form, color, porousness and corporeality merge into awe-inspiring and triumphant works of art.

Triumphant Scale began at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, where it ran from March 8 to July 28, 2019.

 

 

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