Landmark transformed into epic canvas for art show

A series of monumental wall sculptures are on display at the University of Edinburgh in the most comprehensive UK exhibition of one of Africa’s most acclaimed artists.

Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s exhibition at the University’s Talbot Rice Gallery will feature a series of his iconic metal wall hangings crafted out of bottle tops alongside carved wooden reliefs and printed works on paper.

It will include a monumental 15-metre-wide outdoor wall hanging, TSIATSIA – Searching for Connection, that will cover the façade of the Old College Quadrangle.

The exhibition is free for visitors and will run from 29 June to 29 September 2024.

Colonial legacies

Anatsui’s work, which reflects on cultural heritage and the impact of colonialism, has been the subject of major international museum exhibitions, including most recently in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London.

Titled, Scottish Mission Book Depot Keta, the Talbot Rice Gallery exhibition is named after a Scottish missionary book depot that provided books and crayons to Anatsui as a child and helped to influence his early artistic development.

The exhibition invites audiences to explore the rich and vibrant tapestry of his five-decade career, which began in the aftermath of the British colonial period in Ghana, and how he uses his art to engage with the complex legacies of colonialism in Africa.

Highlights include the debut of a new wall sculpture created specifically for Talbot Rice Gallery, alongside notable work Woman’s Cloth, which is on loan from the British Museum.

His metal wall hangings are made by stitching together aluminium bottle tops, reclaimed from Ghanaian and Nigerian liquor bottling and printing-press industries.

Through traditional weaving methods, his works create intricate shapes, patterns and reflective effects to evolve the reclaimed metal into a new form that echoes his experiences of a post-colonial society.

Acclaimed artist

One of the most celebrated contemporary artists in the world, Anatsui was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

While his work is exhibited in the Talbot Rice Gallery, Anatsui will be recognised with an Honorary Degree from the University of Edinburgh at this year’s graduations.

Anatsui will visit Scotland’s capital in July to receive the title of doctor honoris causa for his significant contributions to the art world.

Working with El Anatsui on making this exhibition has been a once in a lifetime experience. Against the backdrop of Old College, El Anatsui's work – with its powerful commentary on history and heritage – will invite visitors to reflect on Scotland's, and indeed the University of Edinburgh’s, own complex colonial legacies.

Tessa GiblinCurator of the exhibition and Director of Talbot Rice Gallery

Related links

El Anatsui / Scottish Mission Book Depot Keta | Talbot Rice Gallery

Image credit - Maverick Photo Agency