German-born artist Stephan Wanger has completed the world’s largest mosaic ever made out of beads. The work – entitled “Sanctuary of Algeria” – is 8 feet tall by 30 feet wide and contains more than 1 million recycled Mardi Gras beads.
The self-taught artist said he hopes his work will raise awareness of the thousands of tons of Mardi Gras beads discarded annually in his adopted hometown of New Orleans. About 97 percent of the beads used in the mosaic are recycled, the artist said.
The colorful mosaic will be on display at Wanger’s Galeria Algeria in The Big Easy until March 9. Then the piece will be auctioned off by the Make It Right Foundation to raise funds for the lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“The city of New Orleans has given me such a beautiful gift with this [Mardi Gras bead] idea, and I simply wanted to return the favor,” Wanger said of donating his mural to Make It Right. “What better way is there to have an artwork possibly benefit a community?”
“Sanctuary of Algeria” showcases a view across the Mississippi River towards downtown New Orleans, complete with the historic Steamboat Natchez – the “undisputed racing champion” of the Mississippi. The steamboat alone is about 6 feet wide and 2 feet tall.
Wanger’s piece is intended to mimic a gigantic postcard and includes the signatures of more than 300 community members – which the artist carefully covered with recycled beads. In total, the mosaic took about 14 months to complete, Wanger said.
Soon to be added to the Guiness Book of World Records, the mosaic is part of the “A Million Greetings from New Orleans” exhibit that Wanger has been working on since 2006. The postcard exhibit will eventually tour Europe to “further promote New Orleans and hopefully increase tourism to the city,” the artist said.
In addition to collecting discarded beads from post-parade debris, Wanger also depends on donations from community members to keep his work alive. The artist set up collection bins for old Mardi Gras beads at the Galeria Algeria, St. Michael Special School and the Arc of Greater New Orleans and hopes to continue his work with the material.
For more information on Wanger’s exhibits, check out the Galeria Algeria online.