- El Anatsui
- They saw us through puffs of smoke
- aluminium and copper wire
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Anatsui first came across his now famed liquor bottle tops by chance in 1998 when he found a discarded pile in the bushes near his studio in Nsukka, Nigeria. Instantly striking a chord with the artist, Anatsui recalls: “when I saw the bottle tops, what struck me was that they are from bottles that have been used, and therefore human hands have touched them... People have really drunk from these bottles, and therefore human hands have left a charge on them” (El Anatsui quoted in: Laura Leffler James, 'Convergence: History, Materials, and the Human Hand – An Interview with El Anatsui', Art Journal, Vol. 67, No. 2, Summer 2008, p. 38). Whilst Anatsui had been experimenting with found materials for some time, the bottle caps inspired him with both their material potential and the relationship to European artistic traditions that they narrated – the illustrious art historical lineage of decorative and luxurious materials that dates back from Medieval and Renaissance traditions to the more recent scintillating gold surfaces of Gustav Klimt’s canvases. Originally a trade commodity, European alcohol became a decisive factor in the slave trade that would come to shape Africa’s history. Now produced and consumed in Africa, the bottle tops that Anatsui uses often have titles that are redolent of modern Africa’s historical figures, events and places. Anatsui seamlessly weaves together these powerful subjects to produce an overwhelmingly evocative and beautiful work, which above all invites contemplation and inspires wonder.