El Anatsui at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College

El Anatsui at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College

Davis Museum at Wellesley College

March 11, 2011
El Anatsui at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College


Davis Museum


“El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa,” a major retrospective of the internationally renowned artist El Anatsui, will make its U.S. premiere March 30, 2011 at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College.

The Ghanaian-born El Anatsui, now based in Nigeria, is widely known for his magnificent large-scale shimmering sculptures made from thousands of discarded liquor-bottle tops.  Approximately 60 works from the artist’s four-decade career, including not only these recent works, but also earlier sculptures in wood, ceramic and metal, as well as rarely seen paintings and drawings, will be presented on two floors of the Davis, in the upper-most Tanner and Jobson Galleries and the lower level Chandler and Bronfman Galleries through June 26.

“As is true of all masterworks, El Anatsui’s objects are enormously complex: they are layered with innumerable surprises and make themselves available to viewers in multiple ways,” said Lisa Fischman, the Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the museum.  “All of the works, but perhaps the large-scale wall pieces and floor installations most particularly, seduce through their beauty, and encourage wonderment in the artist’s use of cast-off materials and labor-intensive methods. They draw equally on traditional idioms and contemporary art practices to investigate new approaches to African art; and they resonate materially and symbolically with the cultural and historical conditions of West Africa.

“The work is simultaneously aesthetically enthralling and charged with cultural critique, and it is this combination that so distinguishes El Anatsui,” continues Fischman. “The presentation of this retrospective exhibition is particularly meaningful on the Wellesley College campus, where it dovetails with the internationalism of the student body and the curricular ingenuity of the faculty.  My hope is that El Anatsui’s work will inspire the community on campus, as well as draw visitors from throughout Boston and New England.”

The retrospective is organized by the Museum for African Art (MfAA), New York City, and curated by Lisa Binder, MfAA associate curator.  It will be one of the inaugural exhibitions in the MfAA’s new building, which opens in fall 2011.


Opening CelebrationWednesday, March 30 / 6:00–8:00 PMDavis Museum lobby and galleries

Ruth Morris Bakwin Lecture
Thursday, March 31 / 6:00 PM
Jewett Auditorium

El Anatsui in conversation with Lisa Binder (assistant curator, Museum for African Art, New York) and Chika Okeke-Agulu (assistant professor, Princeton University).

A richly illustrated catalogue, “El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa,” with contributions by Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Laurance S. Rockefeller University professor of philosophy at Princeton University; Lisa Binder, associate curator at the Museum for African Art, New York; Olu Oguibe, professor of art and art history at the University of Connecticut; Chika Okeke-Agulu, assistant professor art and archaeology at Princeton; and Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, accompanies the exhibition.

“El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa” 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. The catalogue has been published with the assistance of the Getty Foundation.

The presentation at the Davis is supported by the Wellesley College Friends of Art and the Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 Fund for World Cultures and Leadership.


One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine arts museums in the United States, the Davis Museum and Cultural Center is a vital force in the intellectual, pedagogical and social life of Wellesley College.  It seeks to create an environment that cultivates visual literacy, inspires new ideas, and fosters involvement with the arts both within the College and the larger community.

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March 11, 2011

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