Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Begley, John P.

Author's Keywords

Anatsui; El; Nigeria


Art--Economic aspects--Nigeria; Anatsui; El; 1944-; Nigeria--Foreign economic relations


This paper is specifically concerned with contemporary artist El Anatsui, and his impact upon the region in which he lives and works in Nsukka, Nigeria. El Anatsui's large-scale wall sculptures—created by joining recycled aluminum distillery labels into elaborate brocades resembling adinkra and kente cloths—has garnered him substantial critical acclaim, propelling him from a little-known artist to world-wide fame. Using the 2006 installation of Dzesi II at the Akron Art Museum as an opportunity to examine his inclusion in the canon of contemporary art, Anatsui's critical success—with the simultaneous development of an enormous market potential—allows for a consideration of how contemporary art can act as creative capital and a socioeconomic development tool. His art sales—which support a micro-economy in Nigeria—prompt questions concerning the impact of creative economies in Africa, the implications of the term ‘global contemporary,’ and the conditions of contemporary art—what its criteria are, how the canon expands, and what it excludes. El Anatsui’s ability to leverage international capital to patronize local suppliers and materials has positive benefits for the local economy of Nsukka. The paper also examines the economic implications involved in place-making on a global platform, as well as the role biennials play in transforming institutional authority. Finally, it concludes by showing that Anatsui has been re-contextualized from solely an African artist into a transnational artist who is indispensible to global contemporary art. Anatsui will be presented as a unique combination of local and transnational influences, which—by pursuing a strategy of flexibility and the quality of being liminal as a means for transcending the constraints of his personal position—enable him to realize international success.