World Premiere of Contemporary African Artist’s Work at the ROM
This fall sees the world premiere of the exhibition El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa, presented by the Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The exhibition is a 40-year career retrospective of Ghanaian visual artist El Anatsui and will be his first solo exhibition in Canada. El Anatsui is the centrepiece of the Museum’s upcoming Season of Africa, an offering of exhibitions, new permanent installations, and a series of public programs and events inspired by African art and culture. El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa will be on display in the Roloff Beny Gallery on Level 4 of the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal from October 2, 2010 to January 2, 2011.
“The ICC is thrilled to present the striking work of world-renowned artist El Anatsui and to offer a robust schedule of engaging public events that will enlighten participants about the multi-faceted, cultural gem that is Africa,” said Francisco Alvarez, Managing Director, ICC .
This retrospective has been organized by the Museum for African Art (MfAA), in New York, and will be one of the inaugural exhibitions in the MfAA’s new building, which opens in 2011. Drawing on Ghanaian and Nigerian cultural references as well as global, local and personal histories, El Anatsui’s body of work comprises large shimmering metal wall sculptures, for which he is best known, as well as paintings and sculptures in wood, ceramic and metal. The exhibition features 63 works in various media drawn from public and private collections internationally.
Exhibition curator Lisa Binder, associate curator at the Museum for African Art, states, “The Museum for African Art is delighted that this exhibition is opening at the ROM, and hopes that it will provide an engaging and enlightening experience for both audiences new to Anatsui’s work and those who are familiar with it. While his superb wall-sculptures are widely known and celebrated, Anatsui’s career includes a range of innovative and resonant work in many mediums. Seen together, these should provide context for the later work, as well as a fuller and therefore more accurate picture of the arc of his career than has yet been exhibited.”
About the exhibition
Constructed from found objects and everyday materials, Anatsui’s stunningly original sculptures evoke memories of Africa’s past and present. When I Last Wrote to You about Africa brings together the full range of the artist’s oeuvre, from early works in ceramic and wood to the internationally celebrated tapestry-like sculptures of recent years. The exhibition illuminates the great diversity of materials in which Anatsui has worked, among them mortars, the lids of evaporated-milk tins, cassava graters, driftwood, and obituary-notice printing plates. The retrospective will thus enable visitors to observe the development of the artist’s ideas over four decades, bringing to light his multilayered narratives, which refer to the complex histories, themes, and social issues that shape personal, cultural, and historical identities.
The exhibition includes nine of Anatsui’s acclaimed massive metal wall sculptures, made of salvaged liquor-bottle caps that have been flattened, folded and/or twisted, then stitched together with copper wire. These large-scale, colourful sculptures, many as large as 8 ft. by 12 ft., recall the Ghanaian tradition of weaving and assembling the brightly coloured, hand-woven fabrics known as kente cloths.
In association with the exhibition, the ICC is pleased to present Walls and Barriers – A Collaborative Project, an innovative art education initiative by diverse youth from secondary schools and community agencies across the Greater Toronto Area. Unprecedented in its scale and conception, it involved more than 500 young artists and teachers who created a public art installation inspired by and in response to the work of El Anatsui. Walls and Barriers will be on display in Canada Court at the ROM from September 24 until October 25, 2010. More details will be released in the coming weeks.
Season of Africa at the ROM
This fall, the ROM celebrates a Season of Africa with two new contemporary exhibitions, the permanent additions of recent African acquisitions and a new original work by El Anatsui displayed in the Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific, and a full slate of public events delving into the complex cultural, social and political issues of modern Africa. The ICC’s feature exhibition El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa is complemented by Position as Desired /Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, a showcase of photographic works documenting the experiences of African Canadians, opening Saturday, October 2, 2010 in the Wilson Canadian Heritage Exhibition Room of the ROM’s Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada.
A series of lectures, films, panel discussions and free public tours led by prominent guests will be offered from October to December. Among them are two documentary films Fold, Crumple, Crush: The Art of El Anatsui and Nollywood Babylon, a Canadian documentary on the Nigerian film industry, as well as a roundtable on African Art, bringing together high-profile art critics from the University of Toronto, Princeton University and the Dean of the Yale School of Art.
A more detailed release on all these programs will be issued in early September.
Art-lovers and museum-goers will be offered free admission to El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa during the 5th annual Scotiabank Nuit Blanche event on October 2, 2010, from 6:57 p.m. to sunrise.
El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa – Supporting Sponsor: Moira and Alfredo Romano
This exhibition is organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, and has been supported, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Institute for Contemporary Culture
The Institute for Contemporary Culture is the Royal Ontario Museum’s window on contemporary societies around the globe. Playing a vital role within the historical museum, the ICC examines current cultural, social and political issues throughout the modern world in thought-provoking exhibitions of contemporary art, architecture and design that are presented in the Roloff Beny Gallery and other galleries of the Museum. In addition, a roster of public events such as lectures, film series, debates and performances further explore relevant themes addressed in ICC exhibitions, and serves as a catalyst for stimulating public conversations. The ROM’s extensive collections of world cultures and natural history through the ages add context, meaning and depth to these engaging discussions of contemporary ideas. More information at: www.rom.on.ca/icc