Sunday, June 23, 2019

Little escap(ad)es: Triumphant Scale by El Anatsui

Over the last few years Instagram has become one of my sources for inspiration, information and interesting stuff. Looking at pictures posted by people and on hashtags I follow, and looking at hashtags below, and then clicking there… Certainly a way to spend time, sometimes waste time, but often a way to find out about things I had not heard of. So through some way on Instagram I found out about and ended up in Munich last week, at Haus der Kunst, with the exhibition “Triumphant Scale” by El Anatsui. I have to admit I had never heard of him, and I hadn’t been too good about keeping up with the exhibition schedule in cities around me.
It was absolutely impressive, almost overwhelming. 

I spent a good while walking through the labyrinth in the large hall. 

Quite a while ago I had played around with the idea of constructing a labyrinth for exhibition visitors to walk through, some see-through arrangement of fabrics, I think I was considering using organza and various loose combinations. It never materialized because I could not seriously figure out how to do the hanging from the ceiling. And I guess I was not persistent enough to push it through – I also thought at the time it was a bit wild. Now that I see that it is indeed possible I realized some of my ideas might not be too far off from being good and interesting ideas. Except that it has been done by now, and it wouldn’t be original anymore and… oh well. Another possibility to become famous gone down the drain… Not that I am comparing my stuff with El Anatsui’s…

Looking out from the labyrinth onto other pieces on the wall.

Of course one wonders about how the masses of bottlelabels, 

and it was interesting to read that it started with a found bag of bottle labels that he picked up somewhere and then had sitting in his studio for quite a while. My son is always completely embarassed when we happen to be walking down the street together and I stoop to pick something up. So far I have withheld from picking up bottle caps – although my environmentalist mind scringes every time I see one lyeing around. And there are many many many lyeing around. It is simply annoying to see how people just throw stuff like that around. Even if I had been picking them up I would still be far from amassing enough to put them together into a decent-sized wall-piece. But the audio guide said El Anatsui’s need for bottle labels has become known all over Nigeria by now, he buys the labels from a distillery … My son would be even more embarrassed about his mother if I started picking up bottle caps as well.

There are sketchbooks to see, 

and I also loved his wood carvings. 

A very inspiring exhibition! If you can get there before July 28, by all means, you have to go!


  1. Wish I could see that show. I've been amazed by his work for years. You might feel better about not beating him to that idea, if you know that he has assistants who do much of the physical work for him.

    1. I don't feel bad about 'not beating him to that idea' - in fact, it shows that ideas are floating around and that I, too, could have caught it. I know about his assistants, and I also figure work like this with paid assistants can only be produced in countries where wages are a lot lower than here. certainly better that those assistants have that work than that I have to pay assistants for that kind of work here! And I could not export that working situation to any country in other parts of the world without it having a touch of colonialism, exploitation or whatever negative thing one can come up with. I am glad he has these pieces made - but I do hope he pays his assistants sufficiently.