PM Abiy Commissions Artist Elias Sime for New Public Garden at National Palace

Elias Sime’s garden under construction. (COURTESY JAMES COHAN GALLERY)

ARTNEWS

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Commissions Artist Elias Sime for New Public Garden at Historically Off-Limits National Palace

Elias Sime, an Ethiopian artist well known at home and ascendant internationally for works involving intricately woven tangles of reclaimed electrical wires and other materials that come to look like paintings from afar, is building a large public garden for the Grand National Palace in Addis Ababa that once served as the home of emperor Haile Selassie. The project came to fruition after Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed visited Zoma, an ambitious complex of buildings and gardens in the city devoted to exhibitions of contemporary art and indigenous-architectural education as imagined by Sime and anthropologist Meskerem Assegued.

As James Cohan, whose New York–based gallery represents Sime, recalled of the prime minister, “Once he saw it, literally the next day he called Elias up and said, ‘You need to come to the grounds of the royal palace, which I’m going to open to the public for the first time since 1976. It will become our national pride, and you need to build a garden for us.’”

That visit some three months ago led to work that has continued around the clock on a 30,000-square-foot garden expected to be completed in six months. “They’re carving pieces of stone with wavelike rhythmic forms,” Cohan said, “and he’s carving stone for the walls.” More than 300 workers are involved, and “the prime minister visits on a daily basis and has brought numerous visiting international diplomats and dignitaries to see progress,” Cohan added.

In a written statement, Sime—who is working on the project with his partner in Zoma—told ARTnews, “Anyone can be commissioned to build, but being trusted by the Prime Minster, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, with love to build our dream in one of the most prestigious places is special. What Meskerem Assegued and I are building is meant to give love to anyone as much as we loved building it.”

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Related:

Elias Sime Set for Major U.S. Museum Shows in NY, Ohio and Kansas (TADIAS)

Noiseless: Elias Sime’s New Exhibition Opens in NYC

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