Press Releases

news release: El Anatsui Awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Biennale

For Release: May 21, 2015

Akron, Ohio—Ghanaian-born artist El Anatsui, whose work “Dsezi II,” is part of the Akron Art Museum collection, has been awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 56th Venice Biennale. The museum organized an exhibition of El Anatsui’s work, “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui,” in 2012, with major support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since then, the exhibition has traveled to The Brooklyn Museum, the Des Moines Art Center and the Bass Museum of Art in Miami. “Gravity and Grace” is currently on view through June 28, 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Akron Art Museum chief curator Janice Driesbach said, “We are delighted by the news of El Anatsui’s much-deserved recognition at the Venice Biennale. His work, which utilizes found materials such as printing plates, condensed milk tins and liquor bottle caps, strikes a rare balance between stunning beauty, fascinating communal process and deep metaphorical and poetic meaning. As a museum of modern and contemporary art, we take pride in the 2006 acquisition of ‘Dsezi II’ for the museum collection. The artwork is a monumental metal wall hanging patterned with rows upon rows of liquor bottle caps. The northeast Ohio community will get to view ‘Dsezi II’ again this fall in a special exhibition of art from the museum collection that we are planning now.”

In his award statement, Venice Biennale curator Okwui Enwezor writes “El Anatsui is perhaps the most significant living African artist working on the continent today. The award for which I am recommending him is an important honor to an artist who has contributed immensely to the recognition of contemporary African artists in the global arena. It is also a worthy recognition of the originality of Anatsui’s artistic vision, his long-term commitment to formal innovation, and his assertion through his work of the place of Africa’s artistic and cultural traditions in international contemporary art.”

The 70-year-old Anatsui, who visited the Akron Art Museum 2012, remarked in a recent BBC interview, “It's a good feeling to be recognized but at the same time it puts a lot of responsibility on one to make sure that you live up to the award's expectations.”

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