El Anatsui. Bleeding Takari II. 2007

El Anatsui Bleeding Takari II 2007

  • Not on view

Anatsui’s large-scale tapestries are made of bottle caps and foil seals from liquor bottles. The artist connects these materials with copper wire, then drapes the resulting “fabric” in horizontal folds and hangs it on the wall. Anatsui first achieved international recognition in the 1990s for his work in wood and ceramics. He began using discarded bottle caps at the end of that decade, attracted to them partly for the way their bent forms retain traces of the hands that pried them off and cast them away. Linked together, the bottle caps and foil seals allude to the importance of liquor as an international trade commodity in colonial and postcolonial Africa.

The red portions of the metallic surface of Bleeding Takari II appear to soak into the “cloth” and drip onto the floor like blood. Yet the violence implied need not be seen as entirely destructive. Regeneration, Anatsui has said, “comes with blood as well, like childbirth,” and brokenness and decay can also be “a condition for new growth, rebirth.” Anatsui uses the term “Takari” freely to designate, in his words, “any thing, person, object, country, even continent.” Thus the “bleeding” of the title might describe the condition of an individual, a group, or all living things.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

El Anatsui creates sculptures that allude to contemporary consumer habits and to the history of colonialism in his home nation and in his current country of residence, Nigeria. This shimmering sheet is composed of liquor-bottle caps and seals discarded by Nigerian distilleries. Anatsui and his assistants have flattened, folded, and carefully linked the pieces together with copper wire, creating a simple repetition of forms on a grand scale. For Anatsui, bottle caps represent “the material which was there at the beginning of the contact between two continents.” In the complex networks of exchange established between Africa and Europe as early as the fifteenth century, Europeans used alcohol to barter for African goods, and alcohol eventually became a key commodity in the transatlantic slave trade. Like all of Anatsuis malleable hanging sculptures, Bleeding Takari II looks slightly different each time it is installed. The title is evocative yet purposefully mysterious: “Takari” is a fictional name created by the artist, with no specific referent.

Gallery label from 2013.
Medium
Liquor bottle tops and copper wire
Dimensions
148 × 219 5/16 × 30 11/16" (376 × 557 × 78 cm)
Credit
Gift of Donald L. Bryant, Jr. and Jerry Speyer
Object number
201.2008
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.