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Elias Sime (b. 1968 in Addis Ababa, ET) is a multi-disciplinary artist, best known for his large-scale reliefs made from recycled consumer electronics. Sime’s process is motivated by a will to re-claim and re-examine our relationship to our environment. He uses braiding and layering techniques to create vast mosaics composed of keyboards, circuits, wires, and all manner of e-waste imported into his home country, Ethiopia. These materials are sourced from the largest open-air market in Africa located in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. 

Sime’s works serve as records of the global exchange of commodities, and the conceptual transformations of matter from raw materials, to machine, waste, and finally as art. He alternates between biomorphic forms, landscapes, and pure abstraction, relying on the materials to guide his intuitive, measured approach. The equilibrium of universalists concepts—between humanity and nature, progress and tradition, material, and concept—are explored in the artist’s most recent series Tightrope. The title refers to the precarious balance between the advancements that technology has made possible and their detrimental impact on the environment. Sime’s works draw upon their materiality, to comment on the resilience of nature, social responsibility, and the beauty of the utilitarian.

Elias Sime is deeply involved in developing the Ethiopian art community and has established a research practice studying the ancient rituals of rural communities in the country. Together with his long-time collaborator, curator and anthropologist Meskerem Assegued, Sime founded the Zoma Museum which opened in Addis Ababa in 2019. Comprising a school, farm, garden, library, and exhibition and project space, Zoma offers a holistic conception of how community, sustainability, and art can be merged into a unified vision—one that posits a way forward toward a future in which nature, society, and creativity thrive together.

Sime currently has a solo exhibition titled Tightrope at the Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH (US), which was previously on view at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, NY (US) and will travel to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO (US) and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (CA).  

His work is included in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (US); The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (IL); North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC (US); Toledo Museum of Art, OH (US); Perez Museum of Art, Miami, FL (US); Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA (US); Detroit Institute of Arts, MI (US); Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (US); North Dakota Museum of Art, ND (US); Newark Museum, NJ (US); Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH (US); Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (US); Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, NH (US); Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY (US); Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO (US); and the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, Santa Fe, NM (US), as well as in many private collections. 

In 2019, Sime was awarded the African Art Award by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and he is a 2020 Hugo Boss Prize Nominee. 

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