Tate Modern and Hyundai Motor have launched a major new commission by artist El Anatsui in London, alongside Friesian Art Week 2023.
The artwork, titled “Behind the Red Moon,” is part of a series of new site-specific works by international artists in response to the unique context of the museum’s Turbine Hall.
The film will be shown in three acts, with viewers invited on a journey of movement through Anatsui’s dynamic metal sculptures.
The sculpture is composed of thousands of metal bottle caps and parts assembled together in three expansive abstract compositions.
These undulating forms, the artist’s largest work to date, traverse the vast industrial space of the museum’s Turbine Hall,
Reflecting the expanse of human history and the fundamental strength of the natural world.
Each sculpture refers to El Anatsui’s interest in the movement and migration of goods and people during the transatlantic slave trade.
The installation will also be on display between October 10, 2023 and April 14, 2024.
Evoking moon, sail, wave, earth and wall at Tate Modern
The first piece to hang at Tate Modern, titled “Red Moon,” evokes the majestic sail of a ship billowing in the wind, marking the beginning of a voyage across the Atlantic.
Red bottle caps form the outlines of the red moon, or “blood moon,” as seen during a lunar eclipse.
Il Anatsui’s second sculpture, “The World,” is composed of many individual layers that evoke human figures suspended in a turbulent state.
The ethereal look of these shapes is achieved using thin seals on the top of the bottle that are connected to each other to create a mesh-like material.
When viewed from a certain point of view, these scattered shapes come together to form a single circular shape of the Earth.
Anatsui’s final installation, “The Wall,” is a massive black sheet of metal fabric that stretches from floor to ceiling.
At its base, pools of bottle tops rise from the ground in crashing waves and rocky peaks.
Behind its black surface, a delicate structure of shimmering silver is revealed, covered in a mosaic of multi-coloured pieces.
While this mixture of lines, waves, blackness and artistic colors reflects the collision of global cultures
and hybrid identities that L. Anatsui invites us to take into account throughout his work.
Viewing the three paintings together from afar reveals a landscape of symbols:
moon, sail, wave, earth, and wall.
Up close, the logos on the bottle caps speak to the social history of the material,
and point to a current industry built on colonial trade routes.
The past and present of Africa and Europe converge in symphonic sculptural forms suspended in the air and seeming to float through space.
Through the artist’s poetic use of matter as metaphor,
Behind the Red Moon explores the fundamental forces intertwined with the human history of power, oppression, dispersion and survival.