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El Anatsui, “Affirmation” (2014), aluminum bottle caps and copper wire. Signed with the artist’s initials and dated “EL 14 EL 2014” lower right, 122 x 134 1/4 inches

As part of its 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening & Day Sales this February, Phillips, London, is pleased to present A Vision in Red: Property from a Private Swiss Collection comprising six energetic works, at the center of which is El Anatsui’s “Affirmation” (2014), a wall-mounted installation made up of myriad aluminum bottle caps woven into one vast, shimmering curtain. Also on offer are two lots by Louise Bourgeois, a mixed-media painting by Ghada Amer, a larger-than-life print by Halim Al Karim, and a stainless steel construction by Subodh Gupta.

Ever since his 1999 discovery of a bag full of metal seals from African liquor bottles, Anatsui has continually worked on wall assemblages made of bottle caps, crushing the found elements into circles or cutting them into strips, subsequently sewing the parts together to form monumental tapestries. As quoted in Erika Gee’s Educator’s Guide for the Museum of African Art’s 2010 exhibition El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, the artist explains the meaning of his preferred material:

When I first found the bag of bottle tops, I thought of the objects as links between Africa and Europe. European traders introduced the bottle tops, and alcohol was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Europeans made rum in the West Indies, took it to Liverpool, and then sent it back to Africa. For me, the bottle caps have a strong reference to the history of Africa.

Close-up views of El Anatsui’s “Affirmation” (2014), aluminum bottle caps and copper wire. Signed with the artist’s initials and dated “EL 14 EL 2014” lower right, 122 x 134 1/4 inches

As part of the artist’s Theory of Se series, “Affirmation” touches on numerous references pertaining to Anatsui’s cultural background, namely delving into the notion of “Se”, which signifies fate, fortune, or destiny in the Ewe language. “Se” overarches the artistic intention with which Anatsui created the present work and its counterparts; within this theme, the artist explored three states of mind: affirmation, intimation, and revelation.

Accompanying Anatsui’s “Affirmation” in A Vision in Red are five works in the Phillips February Day Sale: two pieces by the late Louise Bourgeois, “Untitled” (2006) and “Spiral” (2010), Ghada Amer’s “In Red and pale-RFGA” (2013), Halim Al Karim’s “Untitled 1 (from the King’s Harem series)” (2008), and “Bucket” by Subodh Gupta (2007). Together, the works from A Vision in Red compose an immersive picture of complex materiality and vibrant color, united by their defining tonal dynamism.

Left: Louise Bourgeois, “Untitled” (2006), ink on fabric and fabric collage. Embroidered with the artist’s initials “LB” lower right. 15 1/2 x 15 5/8 inches | Right: Ghada Amer, “In Red and pale-RFGA” (2013), acrylic, cotton thread, and gel on canvas. Signed, titled, inscribed, and dated “Ghada Amer RFGA Red (SB) IN RED AND PALE RFGA” on the stretcher bar; further signed, titled, and dated “Ghada Amer RFGA 2013” on the lower right turnover edge, 37 x 42 inches

Works up for auction at the Phillips February Evening Sale, which includes Ed Ruscha’s “God Knows Where” (2014) and El Anatsui’s “Affirmation” (2014) (courtesy Phillips)

For details on “Affirmation” by El Anatsui and other work featured in the sales, visit phillips.com/auctions.

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