Tapestry created from liquor bottle tops on display at Nelson-Atkins

Flattened metal tops from African liquor bottles, with wooden chopsticks as props, merged this week on the entrance lobby wall of the Block building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The colorful aluminum from the bottles – more than 1.000 square feet of it – looks like a draped tapestry or cloak, with colors shifting and changing as light changes with the time and seasons.

The work by Ghanian artist El Anatsui is expected to remain on that wall for at least three years. Other exhibits there will be tailored to mesh with it, said Catherine L. Futter, curator of decorative arts. The piece was hung Tuesday and Wednesday and is on display beginning today.

It had been in storage at the Nelson since 2008 and much effort went into repairing and hanging the 350-pound work that measures 39 by 26 feet.

The pop of chopsticks breaking sometimes sounded Wednesday as final installation continued. The chopsticks were used to create folds in the shimmering metal that make it hang like a draped tapestry.

Workers then replaced chopsticks with acrylic rods, working as shifting light made the gold, red, blue, yellows brighter or more muted.

The art makes a statement in many ways from many directions, Futter said.

It’s doing its job,” she said. “People come in here and they just stop and go, oh.”

The artist is a professor in Nigeria who creates the works with students, flattening bottle caps and metal tops from local liquor bottles and connecting them with copper wire.

The liquor, not sold in the United States, has brand names such as 007 and Black Gold, among many others. A Nelson curator is going to Africa next month to get some of the bottles to create a demonstration, Futter said.

The work is called Dusasa I, a name that comes from two Ewe words that together can mean a fusion of disparate elements on a large scale.

“Dusasa I reminds us that for today’s African artists, the traditional and the contemporary are not separate but entwined, and that art creation cannot be dictated by the availability or lack of conventional mediums,” said Nii Quarcoopome, curator of African art.

It is to be the longest exhibit ever to run in the Block lobby, Futter said, and shows the Nelson’s commitment to a more global outlook on art.

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