By some wonderful twist of fate, El Anatsui’s first major retrospective opened at the Royal Ontario Museum in October. The Museum for African Art was hoping to open its new building in New York with this landmark exhibition of work by the Ghanaian artist; but ongoing construction delays diverted the show to Toronto.
I first encountered Anatsui at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007, where curator Robert Storr included Dusasa I and Dusasa II in that year’s Arsenale exhibition. The grand bottle-top tapestries were a vision for weary contemporary art-lovers (no small feat in the large scale, barrel vaulted space). That Anatsui’s work exhibits well in difficult spaces is a testament to its strength. The ROM installation itself is weak at best; but Anatsui shines nevertheless.