Enormous, Shimmering Tapestry to be Hung in Nelson-Atkins Bloch Lobby
Kansas City, MO. Nov. 19, 2012
Thousands of Liquor Bottle Taps Woven Together Form Work of Art
One of the largest and most complex tapestry-like sculptures ever created by Ghanian artist El Anatsui will be hung in Bloch Lobby at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Nov. 20 and 21. The 350-pound, 39-foot-wide, 26-foot-high Dusasa I debuted at the 2007 Venice Biennale and entered the museum’s collection in early 2008. The title comes from two Ewe words, du and sasa, meaning a fusion of disparate elements on a monumental scale.
“Dusasa I reminds us that for today’s African artists, the traditional and contemporary are not separate, but entwined, and that art creation cannot be dictated by the availability or lack of conventional mediums,” said Nii Quarcoopome, curator of African art. “El Anatsui’s creation epitomizes the boundless imagination and inventiveness of 21st-century Africa artists.”
To construct Dusasa I, Anatsui collected thousands of recycled aluminum liquor-bottle tops and the strips that wrap around the bottle necks. He and his assistants flattened and punched six tiny holes in each colorful aluminum strip and arranged them according to the artist’s pattern. Then, using fine copper wire, they tied the strips together to make long rows. Finally, using the same copper wire, they tied the rows together. The finished work of art resembles a magnificent, shimmering tapestry.
The effort behind hanging a piece of art this enormous is as monumental as the work itself. After a conservationist painstakingly repaired thin wires that had broken while the piece was stored, a team of five specialists at the museum constructed a ramp and a grid and rolled the artwork into a large tube. Lifts will be used to put it into place, the top will be fastened to a specially reinforced wall and it will be unrolled. The manipulation of the piece, in which folds are created to give it dimension and vitality, will take several days.
“The work’s monumental scale, malleability, and delicateness present challenges that only experienced technical staff can handle,” said Quarcoopome. “The museum is fortunate to have just such a staff.”
The Anatsui was a gift to the Nelson-Atkins from the William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank Trustee. To date, the Foundation has made possible the addition of 49 works to the museum’s collection.
Laura Fields, a member of the Foundation, first encountered Dusasa I while attending the 2007 Venice Biennale.
“Rob Storr was the director of the Bienale, the first American to be so honored,” said Fields. “He made the historic event truly global by including African artists like El Anatsui, who had never before been asked to participate. Like the history of West Africa, Dusasa I is a rich tapestry that reflects the beauty and the strength of the country and its people. It is an immensely powerful piece.”
Dusasa I was first shown at the Nelson-Atkins in the Sparks exhibition in 2008 to celebrate 10 years of acquisitions of modern and contemporary art through the William T. Kemper Foundation–Commerce Bank Trustee.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access and insight into its renowned collection of more than 33,500 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. The institution-wide transformation of the Nelson-Atkins has included the 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building expansion and renovation of the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.
The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon–5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org/.