• Christie’s collaborates with Efie Gallery, Dubai, to present an exhibition of three pioneering Ghanaian artists, El Anatsui, Yaw Owusu and Isshaq Ismail
• The exhibition offers an artistic dialogue that traces the heritage of two generations of contemporary Ghanaian art
• El Anatsui and Yaw Owusu both transform everyday materials to create works of intricate beauty, while Isshaq Ismail is known for his dynamic and grotesque portraits.
• The exhibition will offer viewers the first opportunity in Europe to see a new series of wooden sculptures by El Anatsui
• Ten works will be exhibited at Christie’s King Street from April 28 to May 13, 2022
Christie’s will present material earth, an exhibition in collaboration with Efie Gallery. Founded in 2021 and based in Dubai, Efie Gallery’s program focuses on art from Africa with a focus on West Africa. material earth features the work of three pioneering Ghanaian artists: El Anatsui, Yaw Owusu and Isshaq Ismail. These artists each established their own distinctive visual language. El Anatsui has become one of the world’s greatest contemporary sculptors, while Isshaq Ismail is internationally recognized for his portraits that manipulate the human figure and challenge our sense of identity. Born in 1992, Yaw Owusu is a young artist who, like El Anatsui, reconstitutes upcycled materials including coins to create rich and shimmering abstractions. The exhibition, material earth, seeks to stimulate the current global dialogue on sustainability, materiality and waste. The viewer is invited to consider the materials that contribute to the intricate beauty envisioned in the work of Anatsui and Owusu. Arriving at the grotesque figures of Isshaq Ismail, the context in which they are seen is meant to draw viewers’ attention to how the environmental waste in the world can be seen as a reflection of ourselves.
Isabel Millar, specialist in post-war and contemporary art, Christie’s: “Christie’s is delighted to collaborate with Efie Gallery, a recently established gallery based in Dubai, on a focused presentation of three Ghanaian artists. El Anatsui’s visionary sculptures incorporate found materials to create shimmering, abstract installations and his influence can be seen in the work of Yaw Owusu. Owusu’s richly textured wall carvings use the Ghanaian ‘pesewa’ coin to create lavish, yet politically charged pieces that question the origins of value. Bordering on abstraction, Isshaq Ismail’s bold portraits explore ideas of contemporary beauty. We are honored to host an exhibition that will show the breadth of the work of these three artists and engage a dialogue about recycling through art..”
Kwame Mintah, co-founder and co-director, Efie Gallery: “At Efie Gallery, we are delighted to present in Europe for the first time through a unique collaboration with the historic institution Christie’s. Following our successful first exhibition in 2021 and our ongoing solo exhibition El Anatsui sparkle song in Dubai, we strive to present African art at the highest level. Thus, the presentation of material earth at Christie’s headquarters in London seeks to continue in this direction. This exhibition will feature works by internationally acclaimed artist El Anatsui, alongside pioneering painter Isshaq Ismail and burgeoning sculptor Yaw Owusu. The works on display will include works from El Anatsui’s new series of wooden sculptures that have not yet been exhibited in Europe. Ultimately, material earth seeks to contribute to the current global dialogue on sustainability, materiality and waste, inviting the viewer to question the transition from a natural to a material world, due to environmental waste.”
In the 1970s, Anatsui became involved with clay but made a lasting return to wood as a medium the following decade. While he states that his work with wood began as a means of keeping alive some of the traditions he grew up with, the work is unmistakably contemporary: his exploration of the expressive qualities of the chainsaw in his woodworking dispels preconceptions of the West African tradition. wood carver. Extracting the detritus of commercial products became a way for El Anatsui to delve into the complicated stories he was working with. After coming across a bag of bottle caps in the countryside of Nsukka, he began to explore the aesthetic and conceptual properties of these objects. Indeed, spirits, including whisky, were a key commodity used by Europeans to trade with 19th century West Africa, a notorious period of commodification taken to its most gruesome extremes. With the help of studio assistants, he developed mastery of the medium, allowing him to work on a monumental scale. His development of a multitude of techniques for processing bottle caps – specific ways of crushing, bending, twisting and cutting them to form a vast array of designs, patterns and textures – created a inimitable aesthetic vocabulary. He also takes a non-prescriptive approach to the display of his sculptures, encouraging others to arrange or drape them without instruction, insisting that we view the works as organic and evolving over time.
Isshaq Ismail creates vivid and dynamic portraits that explore notions of the grotesque. Although these are portraits, the works often border on the abstract: bold form and raw feeling are favored over realistic figurative rendering. There is an urgency to the way the paint is applied to the canvas and the textures are richly layered and applied thickly. The resulting portraits are extremely expressive and boldly colored. The appeal of Ismail’s characters lies in his distinctly brash and unapologetic style and his ability to create a gripping impression through the feelings and emotions his characters convey.
Yaw Owusu creates large-scale glittering wall sculptures. One of his main materials is the “pesewa” coin, a coin he uses to create sparkling fields of abstract patterns. First distributed in Ghana in 2007 in an effort to combat the country’s rising inflation, copper coins have almost no financial value today, despite being considered the savior of the economy. country’s economy at the time. An important dimension of Owusu’s practice is that he had to negotiate with banks in Ghana in order to acquire the coins. Owusu insists that this difficult bureaucratic process is a crucial conceptual element of the work, and of equal importance to the physical sculpture. The pieces themselves are treated using a variety of methods to chemically modify their surface: chemical compounds such as vinegar and salt are applied, altering the coloring and texture of the metal to create vivid chromatic effects. In her work, Owusu plays with the idea of alchemy and explores notions of value while addressing politics at local and global levels.
Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world leader in art and luxury. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including fine art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, with flagship international sales centers in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It is also the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).
Christie’s auctions span over 80 art and luxury categories, with prices ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for a work of art at auction (Leonardo da Vinci Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).
Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling artwork, jewelry and timepieces outside of the auction schedule, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at the individual pace of each customer.
Recent Christie’s innovations include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital artwork ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Every day, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the art business, including the creation of viewing and auction experiences that integrate augmented reality, global live streaming, buy-it-now channels and hybrid sales formats.
Christie’s is dedicated to fostering a responsible culture in all of its businesses and communities around the world, including achieving sustainability through net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify underrepresented voices and support positive change.