The Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at this year’s Venice Biennale. Anatsui will receive the award—one of the top accolades in the art world—on 9 May at Ca’ Giustinian, the historic headquarters of the Biennale.
The jury, led by the president of the Biennale, Paolo Baratta, and the curator of the international exhibition, Okwui Enwezor, praised the “originality of Anatsui’s artistic vision” and his contribution to “the recognition of contemporary African artists in the global arena”. The jury also acknowledged Anatsui’s “sustained and crucial” work as a mentor and teacher over the past 45 years.
Born in Anyako in 1944, Anatsui moved to Nigeria in 1975, where he began to teach art at the University of Nigeria. His shimmering tapestries made from flattened bottle tops propelled him to international fame in the early 2000s, and his work has since been collected by institutions including the British Museum in London, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. In April 2014, Anatsui was elected an honorary Royal Academician.
In an interview with The Art Newspaper last year, Anatsui said his inclusion in the 2007 Venice Biennale marked a turning point in his career. The curator of the international exhibition, Robert Storr, displayed one of his wall hangings in the Arsenale and the work was met with great acclaim. “I reckon that not only the works in the Biennale itself, but also my piece outside on the façade of Palazzo Fortuny (in the exhibition Artempo) led to an increase in invitations for other projects from around the world,” Anatsui said.
Anatsui is represented by October Gallery in London and Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.