Final days to experience El Anatsui’s ‘Behind the Red Moon’ at Tate Modern
As the calendar inches closer to April 14, 2024, art enthusiasts are reminded of the fleeting opportunity to witness El Anatsui’s monumental masterpiece, Behind the Red Moon, at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. According to tate.org, since its unveiling in October of last year, this captivating sculptural installation has mesmerised visitors with its intricate composition of thousands of metal bottle tops and fragments.
This monumental sculptural installation, composed of thousands of metal bottle tops and fragments, captivates viewers with its abstract fields of colour, shape and line.
Anatsui’s creation, a culmination of crumpling, crushing and stitching together bottle tops sourced from Nigeria, serves as a powerful exploration of histories of encounter and the migration of goods and people during the transatlantic slave trade.
The artwork, presented in three acts, invites visitors on a journey of movement and interaction through the hangings, fostering a dance between bodies and sculptures.
From afar, a landscape of symbols emerges, including the moon, the sail, the wave, the earth and the wall. Up close, the logos on the bottle tops speak to the material’s social significance as commodities of a global industry rooted in colonial trade routes. Anatsui’s innovative approach to sculpture is evident in his embrace of the ‘non-fixed form,’ wherein the hangings appear to float across the space, embodying elemental forces intertwined with human histories of power, oppression, dispersion, and survival.
Behind the Red Moon represents Anatsui’s dedication to exploring the poetic possibilities of materials, each possessing physical and spiritual properties. His work delves into the transformative potential of art, intertwining elemental forces with human histories to create evocative and thought-provoking installations.
Behind the Red Moon not only showcases Anatsui’s mastery as an artist but also invites viewers to reflect on the complex interplay between materiality, history and human experience.
As visitors immerse themselves in the monumental hangings, they are confronted with the enduring legacy of colonialism and the resilience of the human spirit.
Anatsui’s artistic vision, coupled with his profound exploration of themes such as environment, consumption, and trade, cements his legacy as a trailblazer in contemporary art. Behind the Red Moon stands as a testament to the transformative power of art to illuminate, provoke and inspire.
The exhibition, on display at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall until April 14, 2024, is made possible through the Hyundai Commission, an annual initiative that invites artists to create site-specific works for the iconic space. Anatsui’s selection for this prestigious commission underscores his status as one of the most distinctive artists working today.
The celebrated Ghanaian sculptor has been making waves internationally with his innovative “bottle-top installations”. With a career spanning decades, Anatsui has garnered attention for his unique approach to sculpture, particularly his use of thousands of aluminium pieces sourced from alcohol recycling stations.
These installations, crafted with meticulous detail, are a fusion of artistry and sustainability. Anatsui weaves together aluminium pieces with copper wire, transforming them into magnificent metallic cloth-like wall sculptures. What sets his work apart is the illusion of fluidity and movement created from materials traditionally perceived as rigid.
Anatsui’s creations not only captivate viewers aesthetically but also challenge perceptions of materiality and form. The flexibility of the aluminium and copper wire allows for manipulation during installation, adding another layer of dynamism to his sculptures.
His impact extends beyond the art world, earning him a coveted spot on the 2023 Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people. Through his art, Anatsui continues to inspire and provoke thought on issues of sustainability, craftsmanship and cultural identity.
Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern, expressed delight in Anatsui’s participation in the Hyundai Commission, praising his unique and unforgettable sculptures.
Hyundai Motor Company, in partnership with Tate Modern, is committed to supporting groundbreaking art initiatives. Through the Hyundai Commission, artists are provided with a platform to push boundaries and redefine public perceptions of contemporary art. Anatsui’s transformative work exemplifies the power of art to transcend boundaries and ignite meaningful dialogue.
El Anatsui’s artistic journey is marked by several notable exhibitions showcasing his work. In 2010 for instance, the retrospective When I Last Wrote to You About Africa debuted at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and toured the United States for three years. His works were highlighted in the exhibition Gravity & Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, premiering in New York in 2013 and travelling to various venues across the country. Another significant retrospective, Triumphant Scale, organised by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, opened in Munich’s Haus der Kunst in 2019, drawing record-breaking crowds. The exhibition later toured internationally, including stops at the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha and the Kunstmuseum Bern in 2020. Anatsui’s impactful exhibitions underscore his profound influence and global recognition in the contemporary art world.