Monumental Works by El Anatsui

Monumental Works by El Anatsui

As part of The Bass’ 50th anniversary celebrations, we are pleased to present Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, the first solo show by the artist to tour the United States. The exhibition highlights Anatsui’s recent work and features twelve monumental metal wall and floor sculptures, widely considered to represent the apex of his career to date. In addition, a series of works on paper illuminate his artistic process, while wooden wall reliefs reference his extensive work in other media.

Drawing on the artistic and aesthetic traditions of his birth country of Ghana, his home in Nigeria and various Western art forms and movements, Anatsui’s work combines personal, local and global concerns. The artist’s most recent pieces are inspired by the “huge piles of detritus from consumption”, particularly in his local environment. Anatsui arranges for the collection of discarded aluminum bottle tops, seals and labels produced by local Nigerian distilleries, which are then bent, twisted and pieced together to create massive, colorful, richly-textured hanging works. Given liquor’s crucial role in the slave trade, these monumental pieces also reference colonial relationships between Europe, Africa and the United States.

As the exhibition travels, each installation of Anatsui’s artwork dramatically changes. The artist encourages museum staff to “sculpt” each metal piece as they install it, and so the works are condensed, expanded or reshaped to fit the space and sensibility of each institution and exhibition space. Derived from a communal process, the beautiful metal pieces displayed as part of Gravity and Grace transcend the artist’s particular cultural influences to embody a universal meaning.

After premiering at the Akron Art Museum in June 2012, the exhibition traveled to:

Brooklyn Museum,
 Brooklyn, New York: 
 February 8 – August 18, 2013
Des Moines Art Center, 
Des Moines, Iowa
: October 24, 2013 – February 9, 2014
Bass Museum of Art, 
Miami, Florida: 
April 11 – September 21, 2014
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 
San Diego, California: 
March 5 – June 28, 2015



The exhibition is organized by Ellen Rudolph, former Interim Chief Curator of the Akron Art Museum, in collaboration with the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. The exhibition and national tour of Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by a major grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The exhibition is funded in part by a generous grant from National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Christie’s and Citizens Interested in Arts.