el anatsui stitches thousands of metal bottle pieces for hyundai commission at tate modern

el anatsui stitches thousands of metal bottle pieces for hyundai commission at tate modern

el anatsui and hyundai team up for behind the red moon

 

Alongside Frieze Art Week 2023, Tate Modern and Hyundai Motor Company have launched a new monumental commission by artist El Anatsui in London. Titled Behind the Red Moon, the artwork is part of a series of new, site-specific works by international artists in response to the unique context of the the museum’s Turbine Hall. Staged in three acts, viewers are invited on a journey of movement through Anatsui’s dynamic metallic sculptures. The sculpture comprises thousands of metal bottle tops and fragments have been stitched together into three expansive abstract compositions. These undulating forms, the artist’s largest work to date, cut through the vast industrial space of the museum‘s Turbine Hall, reflecting on the expanse of human history and the elemental power of the natural world. Each sculpture refers to Anatsui’s interest in the movement and migration of goods and people during the transatlantic slave trade. The installation is on view between October 10, 2023 and April 14, 2024. 

el anatsui stitches thousands of metal bottle pieces for hyundai commission at tate modern
Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon | installation view | image ©Tate / Joe Humphrys

 

 

evoking the moon, sail, wave, Earth, and wall at tate modern

 

The first hanging piece at Tate Modern (see more here), titled ‘The Red Moon,’ evokes the majestic sail of a ship billowing out in the wind, announcing the beginning of a journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Red liquor bottle tops form the outline of a red moon, or ‘blood moon,’ as it appears during a lunar eclipse. The second El Anatsui sculpture, ‘The World,’ is composed of many individual layers that evoke human figures suspended in a restless state. The ethereal appearance of these figures is achieved using thin bottle-top seals wired together to create a net-like material. When viewed from a particular vantage point, these scattered shapes come together into a single circular form of the Earth. Anatsui’s final hanging, ‘The Wall,’ a monumental black sheet of metal cloth that stretches from floor to ceiling. At its base, pools of bottle tops rise from the ground in the form of crashing waves and rocky peaks. Behind its black surface, a delicate structure of shimmering silver is revealed, covered in a mosaic of multi-colored pieces. This combination of lines and waves, blackness, and technicolor echoes the collision of global cultures and hybrid identities that Anatsui invites us to consider throughout his work.

Viewing all three hangings together from afar reveals a landscape of symbols: the moon, the sail, the wave, the Earth, and the wall. Up close, the logos of the bottle tops speak of the material’s social histories, referencing a present-day industry built on colonial trade routes. The past and present of Africa and Europe converge into symphonic sculptural forms that hang in the air and appear to float across space. Through the artist’s poetic use of material as metaphor, Behind the Red Moon explores elemental forces interwoven with human histories of power, oppression, dispersion, and survival.

el anatsui stitches thousands of metal bottle pieces for hyundai commission at tate modern
image © Tate / Ben Fisher Photography

el anatsui stitches thousands of metal bottle pieces for hyundai commission at tate modern
image © Tate / Ben Fisher Photography

el anatsui stitches thousands of metal bottle pieces for hyundai commission at tate modern
Artist El Anatsui | image © Tate / Ben Fisher Photography

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image © Tate / Joe Humphrys

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