The Ghana-born, Nigeria-based artist El Anatsui—known for his signature bottle-cap sculptures—will take over Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall this autumn (10 October 2023-14 April 2024). Anatsui will create the next Hyundai Commission in the vast cathedral-like space that has previously hosted works by artists such as Kara Walker, Olafur Eliasson and the current occupant, Cecilia Vicuña (until 16 April).
Born in Anyako in 1944, Anatsui moved to Nigeria in 1975, where he began to teach art at the University of Nigeria, eventually taking up the post of professor of sculpture at the institution.
His glistening tapestries made from flattened bottle tops became popular in the early 2000s, and his work has since been collected by institutions such as the British Museum in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 2015, Anatsui was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
“I saw the bottle caps as relating to the history of Africa in the sense that when the earliest group of Europeans came to trade, they brought along rum originally from the West Indies that then went to Europe and finally to Africa as three legs of the triangular trip,” he told ARTNews. Writing in The New York Times, the art critic Roberta Smith says: “Their drapes and folds [relating to his tapestries] have a voluptuous sculptural presence, but also an undeniably glamorous bravado.”
Anatsui has also used found materials ranging from old milk tins, railway sleepers, driftwood, iron nails and printing plates. “Repurposing found materials into dazzling works of abstract art, Anatsui’s work explores themes that include the environment, consumption and trade,” says a Tate statement.
Frances Morris, the director of Tate Modern, says in a statement: “Anatsui’s much-loved Ink Splash II 2012 [a bottle top work made with copper wire] in Tate’s collection enchants visitors wherever it’s shown, and we can’t wait to see how this inventive artist will approach a space like the Turbine Hall.”