SEOUL, October 9, 2023 – Hyundai Motor Company and Tate Modern today announced the opening of Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon as Tate Modern unveils a monumental sculptural installation created by artist El Anatsui. Thousands of metal bottle tops and fragments have been stitched together into three expansive abstract compositions. These undulating forms, which are the artist’s largest work to date, cut through the vast industrial space of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, reflecting on the expanse of human history and the elemental power of the natural world. Each sculpture refers to Anatsui’s interest in the movement and migration of goods and people during the transatlantic slave trade.
Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon is the eighth annual Hyundai Commission, a series of new, site-specific works by international artists in response to the unique context of Tate Modern’s iconic Turbine Hall. Staged in three acts, viewers are invited on a journey of movement through Anatsui’s dynamic metallic sculptures.
The first hanging, titled ‘The Red Moon,’ resembles the majestic sail of a ship billowing out in the wind, announcing the beginning of a journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Red liquor bottle tops form the outline of a red moon, or ‘blood moon,’ as it appears during a lunar eclipse. The second sculpture, titled ‘The World,’ is composed of many individual layers that evoke human figures suspended in a restless state. The ethereal appearance of these figures is achieved using thin bottle top seals wired together to create a net-like material. When viewed from a particular vantage point, these scattered shapes come together into a single circular form of the Earth. In Anatsui’s final hanging, ‘The Wall,’ a monumental black sheet of metal cloth stretches from floor to ceiling. At its base, pools of bottle tops rise from the ground in the form of crashing waves and rocky peaks. Behind its black surface, a delicate structure of shimmering silver is revealed, covered in a mosaic of multi-colored pieces. This combination of lines and waves, blackness, and technicolor, echoes the collision of global cultures and hybrid identities that Anatsui invites us to consider throughout his work.
Viewing all three hangings together from afar reveals a landscape of symbols: the moon, the sail, the wave, the earth, and the wall. Up close, the logos of the bottle tops speak of the material’s social histories, referencing a present-day industry built on colonial trade routes. The past and present of Africa and Europe converge into symphonic sculptural forms that hang in the air and appear to float across the space. Through the poetic use of material as metaphor, Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon explores elemental forces interwoven with human histories of power, oppression, dispersion, and survival.
“This year’s Hyundai Commission by El Anatsui invites us to contemplate the ever-evolving global landscape, urging us to explore interwoven narratives that address broader planetary concerns,” stated DooEun Choi, Art Director of Hyundai Motor Company. “We envision Anatsui’s transformative storytelling to create meaningful discussions about our shared present and future.”
El Anatsui was born in Anyako, Ghana in 1944 and has predominantly lived and worked in Nigeria. His highly experimental approach to sculpture embraces a wide range of forms and materials, including wood, ceramics and found objects. He has experimented with liquor bottle tops since the late 1990s and continues to push the medium’s boundaries in novel ways. Aided in his studio by dozens of assistants, Anatsui and his team work together to stitch and assemble his metallic hangings. Embodying Anatsui’s idea of the ‘non-fixed form’, the hangings fold easily in order to travel and appear different each time they are installed. Interested in the changing histories of the objects he repurposes, Anatsui fuses specific local aesthetic traditions with the global history of abstraction. His choice of materials embodies ideas that have shaped his career over several decades, including the evolution of human civilization, African decolonization movements, histories of migration and encounter, and life’s existential journeys.
Hyundai Motor’s ongoing partnership with Tate, confirmed until 2026, is the longest initial commitment from a corporate partner in Tate’s history. This partnership is founded around the shared commitment towards offering new ways to access, understand and experience art. In addition to the Hyundai Commission, the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational, launched in 2019, is driven by this shared vision as it continues to challenge dominant art histories and highlight global exchanges of artists and ideas. Through its long-standing partnerships, Hyundai Motor aims to spark meaningful dialogue, cultivate empathy, facilitate collaborations and engage the entire art ecosystem.
Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon is in partnership with Hyundai Motor with additional support from the El Anatsui Supporters Circle and Tate Americas Foundation. It is curated by Osei Bonsu, Curator, International Art, and Dina Akhmadeeva, Assistant Curator, International Art, Tate Modern. The commission will be accompanied later this year by a new book from Tate Publishing.
Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon
October 10, 2023 – April 14, 2024, Tate Modern
In partnership with Hyundai Motor.
- Image Credit:
Images 1-3: Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon, Installation View, Photo ©Tate (Joe Humphrys)
Images 4-7: Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon, Installation View, Photo ©Tate (Ben Fisher Photography)
- Photo Caption:
Images 1-3: Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon Installation View at Tate Modern
Image 4: Artist El Anatsui
Images 5-7: Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon Installation View at Tate Modern