top of page
  • Writer's pictureSegolene Py

El Anatsui at the October Gallery

For my first time out in the wild city, I chose to lose myself in the October Gallery, hidden in the streets of #Holborn. For this summer, the gallery will be showing a series of short-term exhibitions of represented artists. For 3 weeks and until the 8th august this solo exhibition focuses on El Anatsui.

Born in 1944 in #Ghana, El Anatsui is well-known for his metal and wooden wall-sculptures. He now lives and works in #Nigeria and has his studio in Nsukka, Nigeria. For the first part of his careers between the 1980’s and the 90’s, El Anatsui mainly focused on the production of wooden sculptures such as house-post and mortars and also using discarded objects from local environment (roofing materials, cassava graters, milk tin lids and printing plates). It is then from the 90’s that he started to produce his famous metallic sculptures. Using found objects made of metal, he assembled them to create large scale #sculptures that resemble piece of clothing. All found objects are from food or drinks products which stands for him as a criticism of #consumption but also, in my eyes, as a statement for the importance of recycling and of our environment.

It is in 2002 that El Anatsui started using bottle tops from Nigerian liquor bottles that gave a different look to his work. They bring more #colour and more flexibility to the work. In his practice, El Anatsui creates what he called “blocks” of colours. He places them together on the floor and #photographs them to choose the right pattern. This interaction with the architecture gives the place another look, another way of thinking about it. The different colours, and the various shades and light in the work give the illusion that the piece dresses the building with a golden and silver glowing coat. By bringing flexibility in exhibiting his work El Anatsui offered the public different ways to experience it, being able to hang it in various places. The new use of this item allowed also the creation of even bigger pieces. For example, one of his biggest work called Tsiatsia was hanged in 2013 on the façade of the Royal Academy during the Summer Exhibition show. He also exhibited his works when covering the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Musée Galliera in Paris…

The artist and the gallery have a relationship of over 20 years, being the place where he had his first UK solo show in 1995 and had been shown in a group exhibition in 1993. Today at the October gallery, we have a reminder of all that he has experienced with various media. Scattered into two different rooms, you’ll see 3 metallic sculptures: to hanged in the wall and one from the ceiling, 1 wooden sculpture and 7 prints using different techniques.

I love the contrast between looking at the oeuvre from afar and slowly getting close to it. It is like a transformation from a very large piece of clothes to the reality of the material used. And seeing a retrospective in the gallery he was first introduce to the UK is even more emotional.

The show will be on until the end of August and you do not need to book to visit, so go for it ! It’s free and an amazing experience.

About the gallery:

24 Old Gloucester St,

London WC1N 3AL


Founded in 1979 by two directors, Chili Hawes and Elizabeth Lalouschek, the gallery represents and exhibits international artists (mainly Black artists or BIPOC) and foster contemporary art, mainly transavantgarde style. With their educational programme and various events promotes art for all.

bottom of page