When I was in New York recently for the Frieze Art Fair, I picked up the New York Times in the hotel. There on the back page of the arts section was a full-page ad from Bonhams auction house featuring one of the stars of an upcoming sale. It was a major construction by the most famous artist in Africa, El Anatsui. The price estimate was one of those impressively large numbers. At the Frieze Fair, featuring the leading contemporary art galleries in the world, a few choice El Anatsui works were on view. Sold. All sold. I thought, “Gee, this guy is a rock star. He could be the De Kooning of the future.”
Your art museum commissioned El Anatsui to create an extraordinary wall hanging for the new West Building. It is front and center, and you enjoy it every time you enter the building. It is one of his best.
The success and popularity of our work by this master inspired us to present the exhibition El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa. It is a fantastic review of the great work from his 40-year career. There are, of course, the breathtaking wall hangings woven from found metallic elements. But you might be surprised by the power of his sculptures, drawings, and paintings incised in wood.
You should not miss this exhibition. It is one of the most alluring and captivating shows the Museum has ever presented. And it is yours until July 29. The art world is envious of you.
Larry Wheeler is director of the North Carolina Museum of Art.