El Anatsui was born in Ghana in 1944. He currently lives and works in Nigeria. At the beginning of his career, he was initially interested in sculpture: he worked principally with wood, which he cut with an electric saw and marked with fire, following a process that resembled a ritual. More recently, he has been working with recycled materials. Anatsui creates enormous installations with flattened bottle tops, which he attaches to each other with copper thread until they take the form of enormous metallic sheets. His first works of this kind were inspired by Ghanaian fabrics, in particular, the traditional colours of Kente. Rather than plot the process of creation beforehand, he allows the folds and drapes to take shape spontaneously: they are understood as open-ended and changeable, depending on where the work is exhibited. In Ozone Layer (2010), for example, they soar lightly in the air, constantly changing the appearance of the composition. In Anatsui’s work, poor, everyday materials, among them also cassava graters and the milk bottle tops, become the principal materials of sumptuous compositions which, evoking passages of abstract painting, simultaneously evoke graceful ornament and powerful monumentality.
In 2015 El Anatsui was awarded the Golden Lion for career at the 56th Venice Biennale. Recent exhibitions dedicated to his work include those held at Carriageworks, Sydney (2016) and Kunstbanken Hedmark Kunstsenter, Norway (2015). His work was included in the exhibition ‘The World Belongs to You’ (2011-12) at Palazzo Grassi.