AFRICAN MASTERPIECE IN BONHAMS POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART SALE
11 Feb 2016
Made from thousands of pressed bottle tops and measuring nearly three metres square, El Anatsui's Peju's Robe is one of the Ghanaian master's most visually striking sculptures. It features in Bonhams' 11 February Post-War and Contemporary Art sale with an estimate of £450,000-550,000.
Made in 2006, Peju's Robe was commissioned by a personal friend and legal advisor of the artist. "The piece has special personal resonance for me," says Anatsui. "Peju's Robe mirrors the original owner's effervescent, playful and caring personality yet sombre and revered tone of the legal profession's use of black robes, which still obtains in courts in Nigeria today." It has come by direct descent to the current owner.
El Anatsui is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated contemporary African artists. He is famed particularly for his re-workings of nondescript, everyday objects that have changed hands
many times into fascinatingly beautiful works of art. Bottle tops are Anatsui's most iconic signature and Peju's Robe bears a striking resemblance to the monumental bottle cap sculpture that he draped over the façade of the Palazzo Fortuny at the 2007 Venice Biennale.
The bottle caps are bound together with copper wire and Peju's Robe is remarkably flexible. Anatsui rarely instals his own work – instead, typically, he leaves the ultimate form of the sculpture open to the inclinations of the curator. "By creating a form that is so free and not fixed," Anatsui said in an interview with Bonhams Magazine, "you can perhaps bring out the artist in those who would place the work."
"The undulating, shimmering surface of Peju's Robe is an incredible visualisation of non-constraint, but it is also a brilliantly textural piece," said Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams Director of Modern and Contemporary African Art. "It is the perfect emblem of Anatsui's powers of transformation."
Peju's Robe is just one example of the distinctly international outlook of the 11 February sale. The carefully curated selection of 49 lots represents the best of post-war and contemporary art across the world: from Africa, to Japan, Europe and America.
"El Anatsui's Peju's Robe is a remarkable piece and continues Bonhams' long association with the artist and his very best work," said Ralph Taylor, Bonhams Senior Director of Post-War and Contemporary Art. "This early example is amongst the most accomplished from the series to appear at auction and takes its place alongside masterworks from Frank Auerbach, Andy Warhol and Kazuo Shiraga to lead this memorable sale."
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