Lagos, Nigeria, Sept. 30, 2017 (TNE) Globally-celebrated Ghanaian Sculptor, Prof. El Anatsui, has been honoured with the most internationally-prestigious award in art – the Japan’s Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award, according to a statement unveiled recently in New York, US, by The Japan Art Association at the famous Juilliard School.
Quoting the announcement, Mrs Therese Nweke, Head of Media & Communications at the ANATSUI ART INITIATIVE (AAI) in Lagos, Nigeria, said the 73-year-old Prof. Anatsui, who is Emeritus Professor in Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), will receive his award on 18 October, 2017, in Tokyo, Japan, from His Imperial Highness, Prince Hitachi, the younger brother of the Emperor of Japan, and the patron of The Japan Art Association.
According to Mrs Nweke, the multi-award winning sculptor has also been honoured with the Lorenzo il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award by the 2017 Florence Biennale.
The award, which is the highest point of the XIth Florence Biennale, whose theme is “Earth Creativity and Sustainability”, will be presented to the sculptor at a ceremony in the Italian city of Florence – the culture capital of Europe – on 6 October, 2017.
For the Japan’s Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award, the Japan Art Association described Prof. Anatsui’s work as “complex… (and) defies traditional categories. He is known for the malleable sculptures he creates from discarded metal, such as cassava graters and liquor bottle tops… His transformation of these found materials enhance them with a certain dignity, and something he values. His long-held opinion is that ‘art is something that grows from the environment, it is not something you have to create’’.
The Praemium Imperiale is the world’s most respected international prize in Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film. It was instituted in 1989 by Japan’s imperial family on behalf of The Japan Art Association, to acknowledge categories of achievement not represented by the Nobel Prizes. Every year, laureates are chosen for their outstanding achievement in the Arts from six nomination committees, each chaired by an International Advisor who propose candidates to The Japan Art Association.
In 2015, Prof. Anatsui was awarded The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. He also holds honorary doctorates, including that of Harvard University. He is also an Honorary Royal Academician of Britain’s Royal Society of Arts (RSA), winner of the highly coveted Charles Wollaston Prize from the RSA, and has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The sculptures of El Anatsui’s can be found in the collections of the world’s major museums and galleries. They include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Modern, the Smithsonian Institution, the British Museum, Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim and the Centre Pompidou.
Besides El Anatsui, who resides in Nigeria, this year’s award winners are Mikhail Baryshnikov, who is Latvian-American, and one of the world’s most celebrated dancers and choreographers, Rafael Moneo, the Spanish architect and the 1996 winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, Youssou N’Dour, the globally acclaimed Senegalese musician and Grammy Award winner, and Shirin Neshat, the Iranian-American visual artist and winner of the Silver Lion at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
This year’s laureates join 144 of the greatest artistes of the 20th and 21st centuries. They include Daniel Barenboim, Placido Domingo, John Gielgud, Ingmar Bergman, Leonard Bernstein, Anthony Caro, Athol Fugard, David Hockney, Martin Scorsese, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Zaha Hadid.
On the Lorenzo il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award by the 2017 Florence Biennale, Mrs Nweke said the award, which is the highest point of the XIth Florence Biennale, will vault Prof. El Anatsui to the list of other distinguished global winning artists, including Anish Kapoor, Marina Abramovich, Robert Chen and David Hockney.
The Biennale’s Director, Jacopa Celona, in a recent statement justifying Prof. Anatsui’s award, said: “El Anatsui has represented the essence of Africa, while casting light on the relation between Humanity and Nature so as to inspire a global audience… Furthermore, through a creative experimentation with metals, plastic and discarded resources, has shown that the poverty of materials in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories.”
Saying that he was speaking on behalf of the Biennale’s Steering Committee, the Curatorial Board and International Jury, Celona also said “(Anatsui’s) many other complex assemblages… have a distinctive visual impact, and give breath of life to his vision of the world.”
In another development, Prof. Anatsui has been given yet another Lifetime Achievement Award; this time by the Philadelphia- based Brandywine Workshop and Archives.
The prize honours artistic excellence and service which the sculptor has given to Nsukka, in Enugu State, Nigeria, where he has lived and worked for over four decades.
In a communique issued by Allan L. Edmunds, the organisation’s president, it stated that Prof. Anatsui’s award was based on “the fact that he creates out of non-traditional materials that are found locally, and recycles them into masterful works of art, while employing dozens of local employees and contributing to the local economy in ways significant and environmental beneficial.” He also added that the sculptor’s “art and impact represent the highest values for which the Award was established.”
The 45-year-old Brandywine Workshop and Archives has recognised the achievements of African-American artists since 1976, and honours the most celebrated legacy artists of the post-modern era. Former awardees include Jacob Lawrence, Richard Hunt, Barbara Chase-Riboud and Mel Edwards.
Prof. El Anatsui is also the recipient of numerous international prizes, honours and awards, including the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Prize, and the Praemium Imperiale International Art Award for Sculpture.
At the newly-opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, (MOCAA) in Cape Town, South Africa, described as “Africa’s Tate Modern”, and the continent’s largest museum devoted to contemporary African art, the biggest draw at the museum’s recent opening was an imposing El Anatsui wall sculpture.
This internationally-acclaimed sculptor from Africa has exhibited on every continent. He has also been in the forefront of art education for more than four decades. El Anatsui has inspired a generation of African artists, as well as many others beyond Africa with work that is not only distinctive, multifaceted and an intriguing re-imagining of the material world, but a body of work that is globally acknowledged and respected for challenging accepted traditional methods of sculptural practice and charting new directions in Art.
An alumnus of the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, Prof. El Anatsui is one of the most exciting international contemporary artists of “our time”.
Throughout a distinguished 40-year career as both sculptor and teacher, Prof. El Anatsui has addressed a vast range of social, political and historical concerns, and embraced an equally diverse range of media and processes.
His sculptures have been collected by major international museums, from the British Museum, London to the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi; Osaka Foundation of Culture, Osaka; Museum of Modern Art, New York and many other prestigious institutions besides.
His installations have provoked wide international attention in recent years, with institutions and audiences fascinated by these sumptuous, mesmerising works made from thousands of aluminium bottle tops.
During the Venice Biennale, in 2007, he transformed the facade of the Palazzo Fortuny by draping it in a shimmering wall sculpture.
In 2010, two major touring shows of his work opened on opposite sides of the world: El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada (organised by the Museum for African Art, New York) and A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan. As part of the 2012 Paris Triennale, he transformed the entire facade of Le Palais Galleria, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris with his striking work, Broken Bridge.
In 2013, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA, exhibited the touring solo exhibition, Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, presented the artist with the prestigious Charles Wollaston Award for his work, TSIATSIA – searching for connection, 2013, which covered the entire facade of the RA building. The major survey exhibition Five Decades, which in 2015 premiered at The School (Jack Shainman), Kinderhook, New York, toured to Carriageworks (in association with Sydney Festival), Sydney, Australia, in 2016. A major new work Kindred Viewpoints enveloped the facade of El Badi Palace during the 2016 Marrakech Biennale.
In 2014, he was made an Honorary Royal Academician as well as elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2015 he was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia – All the World’s Futures and in 2016 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cape Town.
In an interview with October Gallery, EL Anatsui noted, “The amazing thing about working with these metallic ‘fabrics’ is that the poverty of the materials used in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories.