The Japan Art Association has announced the five recipients of the 2017 Praemium Imperiale Awards and honoured El Anatsui with the Praemium Imperiale Award for Sculpture.
Since 1989, the Praemium Imperiale Awards have been given annually in the categories of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film to cover fields of achievement not represented by theNobel Prizes. The Laureates are chosen from lists submitted annually by six International Advisors to the Japan Art Association.
The awards will be presented by HIH Prince Hitachi, Honorary Patron of the Japan Art Association and younger brother of the current Emperor of Japan, in a ceremony in Tokyo this October. Each Laureate receives an honorarium of 15 million Yen (c. £100,000).
In addition to the Praemium Imperiale Awards, there is also a companion Grant for Young Artists.
October Gallery, London, has worked with El Anatsui since 1993, during which time his art has received worldwide recognition. His magnificent sculptures have been collected by major international museums. Elisabeth Lalouschek, Artistic Director of October Gallery comments, "I am delighted that El Anatsui has been given this most significant award in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the world of contemporary art."
El Anatsui‘s complex works of art defy the traditional categories. He is well known for malleable sculptures created from discarded metal elements, like cassava graters or liquor bottle tops. His transformation of these found materials into large-scale works enhances their significance and endows them with a shimmering sense of opulence. El Anatsui has said, "The amazing thing about working with these metallic “fabrics” is that the poverty of the materials used in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories."
Born in Ghana, El Anatsui moved to Nigeria in 1975, where he is based today. His work has been collected by major international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum, the Tate Modern, the Centre Pompidou and the Smithsonian Institution, among many others. In 2015, he was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. Anatsui’s work was first displayed in Japan in the exhibition An Inside Story: African Art of our Time, in 1995. That same year he received the Kansai Telecasting Corporation Prize at the Osaka Triennale. His work was the subject of a large-scale retrospective that toured Japan, A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui, 2010-11. A major work, Perspectives, was included in the exhibition The Contemporary 2: Who Interprets the World? at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, in 2015. El Anatsui is the first Ghanaian recipient of the Praemium Imperiale. Past Sculpture Laureates include: Arnaldo Pomodoro, Anthony Caro, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Louise Bourgeois, Bruce Nauman, Tony Cragg, Richard Long, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Annette Messager.