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El Anatsui sculptural tapestry hung in Bloch Lobby at Nelson-Atkins Museum
El Anatsui, Ghanaian (b. 1944). Dusasa I, 2007. Found aluminum and copper wire, approximate dimensions: 288 x 360 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee, 2008.2. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY. Photograph by Robert Greenspan.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- One of the largest and most complex tapestry-like sculptures ever created by Ghanian artist El Anatsui has been hung in Bloch Lobby at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The 350-pound, 39-foot-wide, 26-foot-high Dusasa I debuted at the 2007 Venice Biennale and entered the museum’s collection in early 2008. The title comes from two Ewe words, du and sasa, meaning a fusion of disparate elements on a monumental scale.

“Dusasa I reminds us that for today’s African artists, the traditional and contemporary are not separate, but entwined, and that art creation cannot be dictated by the availability or lack of conventional mediums,” said Nii Quarcoopome, curator of African art. “El Anatsui’s creation epitomizes the boundless imagination and inventiveness of 21st-century Africa artists.”

To construct Dusasa I, Anatsui collected thousands of recycled aluminum liquor-bottle tops and the strips that wrap around the bottle necks. He and his assistants flattened and punched six tiny holes in each colorful aluminum strip and arranged them according to the artist’s pattern. Then, using fine copper wire, they tied the strips together to make long rows. Finally, using the same copper wire, they tied the rows together. The finished work of The effort behind hanging a piece of art this enormous is as monumental as the work itself. After a conservationist painstakingly repaired thin wires that had broken while the piece was stored, a team of five specialists at the museum constructed a ramp and a grid and rolled the artwork into a large tube. Lifts will be used to put it into place, the top will be fastened to a specially reinforced wall and it will be unrolled. The manipulation of the piece, in which folds are created to give it dimension and vitality, will take several days.

“The work’s monumental scale, malleability, and delicateness present challenges that only experienced technical staff can handle,” said Quarcoopome. “The museum is fortunate to have just such a staff.”

The Anatsui was a gift to the Nelson-Atkins from the William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank Trustee. To date, the Foundation has made possible the addition of 49 works to the museum’s collection.

Laura Fields, a member of the Foundation, first encountered Dusasa I while attending the 2007 Venice Biennale.

“Rob Storr was the director of the Bienale, the first American to be so honored,” said Fields. “He made the historic event truly global by including African artists like El Anatsui, who had never before been asked to participate. Like the history of West Africa, Dusasa I is a rich tapestry that reflects the beauty and the strength of the country and its people. It is an immensely powerful piece.”

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