Inside El Anatsui’s Private Record Collection

The Ghanaian artist is also a music buff.

Fela Kuti & Africa 70, Open & Close, 1987. Courtesy Efie Gallery.

Contemporary art lovers who are also music fans will find a special offering during the Art Dubai fair this week, with more than 70 examples from the record collection of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui going on view at Dubai’s own Efie Gallery. Music has always been a major inspiration for the artist, and the records appear alongside early sketches that include song lyrics and musical titles. (The fair runs March 1–3; the gallery show runs through May 27.) 

The collection spans numerous genres and continents, and features artists including Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti; the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin; R&B sensation Gladys Knight & the Pips; jazz pianist Wes Montgomery; jazz trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie; Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango; Greek singer Antonis Kalogiannis; Nigerian singer-songwriter King Sunny Adé; and Russian classical composer Peter Tchaikovsky. 

A new piece by Anatsui will also be on display at Art Dubai, along with pieces by Aïda Muluneh, Maggie Otieno and Yaw Owusu. 

“It’s a true honor to display El Anatsui’s record collection to the public for the first time, revealing a lesser-known side of this highly esteemed artist,” said gallery director Kwame Mintah.

Anatsui is best known for large works created from bottle tops that are flattened and woven together to look like tapestries of precious metals. He is, as Artnet News’s Amah-Rose Abrams wrote last year, arguably “the godfather of the artistic scene that has erupted in Ghana in the last decade.” His monumental sculpture Beyond the Red Moon is currently on view in the massive Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, in London (through April 14).

Efie Gallery opened in 2021 and focuses on contemporary art art of Africa and the African Diaspora. On view at the gallery will be “Elastic Visions,” a show organized by guest curator Faridah Folawiyo, “showcasing the dynamism of artistic expression emerging from practitioners of African origin across the world.” The show includes artists such as Kesewa Aboah, Kevin Claiborne, Hugh Findletar, Cédric Kouamé, and Fadekemi Ogunsanya.

See more covers from Anatsui’s collection below.

Aretha Franklin With Rev. James Cleveland & The Southern California Community Choir, Amazing Grace (1972). Courtesy Efie Gallery.

Victor Olaya, In the 60s, 1982. Courtesy Efie Gallery.

Earth, Wind & Fire, I Am (1979). Courtesy Efie Gallery.

Manu Dibango,
Gone Clear (1980). Courtesy Efie Gallery.

Gladys Knight & the Pips, Pipe Dreams (1976). Courtesy Efie Gallery.

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