Biography

William Kentridge

Current as of July 2017

William Kentridge (born Johannesburg, South Africa, 1955) is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions.

His practice is born out of a 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. 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. Kentridge’s practice also incorporates his theatre training.

Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including documenta in Kassel, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Copenhagen. Opera productions include Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and La Scala, Milan, amongst others), Shostakovich’s The Nose (Metropolitan Opera, New York, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opéra de Lyon) and Berg’s Lulu (Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, Metropolitan Opera, New York and English National Opera, London).

The 5-channel video and sound installation The Refusal of Time was made for documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany, in 2012; since then it has been seen in cities around the world. Other recent projects include More Sweetly Play the Dance, an 8-channel video projection shown 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 been presented in many other cities since. Kentridge’s ambitious public art project for Rome, Triumphs & Laments (a 500 meter frieze of figures power-washed from pollution and bacterial growth on the walls of the Tiber River) opened in April 2016 with a performance of live music composed by Philip Miller and a procession of shadow figures.

In 2010 Kentridge received the prestigious Kyoto Prize. In 2011 he was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa from the University of London. In 2012 Kentridge presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University and was elected 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 Kentridge was appointed as an honorary academician of the Royal Academy in London.

read more collapse