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A London Sculpture That Covers a Building

It’s not visible from the street, tucked away inside a airy courtyard. If you venture inside, there it is on the face of the grand Burlington House, which houses part of the British Royal Academy of Arts in central London. The day we walked by, workers were installing a massive hanging sculpture over the building’s entire facade. Measuring 49 feet by 75 feet, the sculpture was created by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who has spent his career working with unique materials—wood, clay, occasionally metal.

This artwork is different. The 69-year-old artist created this new piece, called “Tsiatsia—Searching for a Connection,” out of only recycled items, things he saved from a landfill. It might look like a mosaic of tiny tiles, but if you get closer, you’ll be able to recognize that it’s stitched together with bottle caps, milk lids, old plates from printers, and used roof tiles. A quote from Anatsui hangs near the project. “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.” That’s a good explanation, although one might simply be impressed with its shine and shimmer as it hangs from the wall. The work will be up, we were told, all summer.