William Kentridge was born in Johannesburg in 1955. He is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions.
His practice is born out of cross-fertilization between mediums and genres. His work responds to the legacies of colonialism and apartheid within the context of South Africa’s socio-political landscape. His aesthetics are drawn from the medium of film’s own history, from stop-motion animation to early special effects. William Kentridge’s drawing, specifically the dynamism of an erased and redrawn mark, is an integral part of his expanded animation and filmmaking practice, where the meanings of his films are developed during the process of their making. His practice also incorporates his theatre training.
William Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including documenta in Kassel, MoMA in New York, the Albertina in Vienna, the Louvre in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Copenhagen. Opera productions include Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (La Monnaie in Brussels, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, La Scala, Milan), Shostakovich’s The Nose (Metropolitan Opera, New York, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opéra de Lyon) and Berg’s Lulu (Dutch National Opera, the Met and English National Opera). In 2017 he created a new production of Berg’s Wozzeck for the Salzburg Festival.
The 5-channel video and sound installation The Refusal of Time was made for documenta (13) in Kassel in 2012 and has since been seen in cities around the world. Other recent projects include More Sweetly Play the Dance, an 8-channel video projection first seen in Amsterdam in April 2015, and Notes Toward a Model Opera, a three-screen projection looking at the Chinese Cultural Revolution, made for an exhibition in Beijing in 2015. Both have since been presented in many other cities. William Kentridge’s ambitious public art project for Rome, Triumphs and Laments, a 500-metre frieze of figures power-washed from pollution and bacterial growth on the walls of the River Tiber, opened in April 2016 with a performance of live music composed by Philip Miller and a procession of shadow figures.
In 2018 William Kentridge realized his new project The Head & the Load at the Park Avenue Armory in New York and at Tate Modern in London. In June 2019 he opened the exhibition A Poem That Is Not Our Own at the Kunstmuseum in Basel where, in addition to early graphic and cinematic works from the 1980s and 1990s, he highlighted the thematic complex of migration, flight and procession.
In 2010 William Kentridge received the prestigious Kyoto Prize. In 2011 he was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received an honorary doctorate of literature from the University of London. In 2012 William Kentridge presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard and was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts by Yale University. In 2015 William Kentridge was made an honorary academician of the Royal Academy in London.