"EL ANATSUI at The Armory Show"
A gallerist at the Armory Art Show recently asked me what it was like to work with artists from developing regions of the world. I didn’t mind this question, but he did it while staring down at me with a look of pity, which felt like a condescending pat on the head. It may have been his healthy 6 foot height that made me feel that way, or it could have been his (mis)assumption of what it means to make art in regions considered “less established” than their North American or European counterparts. Either way, I surmise he was suggesting I had chosen the short straw.
Ironically, we were standing in front of a vast and elaborately interwoven tapestry made entirely of found bottle tops by world-renowned Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. Amongst the likes of William Kentridge and Marlene Dumas, El Anatsui is arguably one of the most prolific contemporary artists to come out of Africa. This made me smile—which soon turned to a full-fledged grin when I glanced over at its $500,000-plus price tag. There is something beautifully ironic about an artist who creates a work using found objects that, in essence, cost nothing, and then through ingenuity and the right positioning is able to enter the higher echelons of the global art market and find legitimization. This may sound vindictive, but I would prefer to think this admiration advocates that the resourcefulness and creativity of such an artwork is just inexplicably worthy.
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