Traveling Tapestries Take Center Stage at Des Moines Art Center

Forget flyover. When it comes to contemporary art, the Midwest gives New York a run for its money.

There’s the Walker Art Center, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Milwaukee Art Museum – should we keep going?

The latest Midwestern show sure to wow visitors is happening at the Des Moines Art Center. The center will host the work of El Anatsui, a Ghanaian artist internationally known for his monumental sculptures made of bottle caps.

“It’s just so beautiful and it’s this interesting material,” said Laura Burkhalter, assistant curator at DMAC. “[It’s] something most people probably would consider to be garbage, but yet it transforms into this beautiful fabric.”

Ohio’s Akron Art Museum organized the show, which is halfway through its U.S. tour. Of the five stops, two are in the Midwest.

The Skinny:

The show features 12 monumental sculptures, six drawings and 12 wood works.  The installation of the show is an exercise in collaboration, Burkhalter said. That’s because El Anatsui gives museum staff the liberty to hang, bend, twist and form the flat sheets of his monumental sculptures in a way that fits the space the best.

“Our architecture is very distinct here, so it was a nice challenge to think about our architecture in a new way,” Burkhalter said. “That’s one of the cool things about the show.  Technically [the work] doesn’t fit on that wall, but you can make it fit on the wall because they can be scrunched and bunched in certain ways. Our installation team did a fantastic job of doing a layout and finding the little parts of the building where these works would fit the best.”

Listen: El Anatsui Talks About His Newest Exhibition, Gravity and Grace