William Kentridge (b. 1955) is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Black Monkey Thorn forms part of Kentridge’s analysis of the forms of different trees indigenous to South Africa. In his six part lecture series, titled Six Drawing Lessons and delivered at Harvard University as part of the preeminent Norton Lectures, Kentridge discussed this series in relation to how works of art develop meaning.
From ArtThrob’s Art Bio by Michael Smith, November 2007:
There can be little doubt that William Kentridge is South Africa’s most widely acclaimed and successful contemporary artist. Since the mid-80s his influence has rippled through the SA art scene, spawning countless admirers and almost as many imitators. His presence has extended to an international profile that puts him into the company of SA alumni like Marlene Dumas and Kendell Geers. Yet, unlike these artists who have relocated to Europe, Kentridge’s output is generated from his Johannesburg studio. This is appropriate for an artist whose interest in the ‘rather desperate provincial city’ stretches far back to his early works, like his Industry and Idleness series of etchings and the animated drawing short film Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris.
William Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2003, 2012), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998, 2010), the Albertina Museum in Vienna (2010), Jeu de Paume in Paris (2010), and the Musée du Louvre in Paris (2010), where he presented Carnets d’Egypte, a project conceived especially for the Egyptian Room. Kentridge’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was presented at Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Festival d’Aix, and in 2011 at La Scala in Milan, and his production of Shostakovich’s The Nose was seen at The New York Metropolitan Opera in 2010 and again in 2013, traveling to Festival d’Aix and to Lyon in 2011. 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 at MAXXI in Rome, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and other cities including Boston, Perth, Kyoto, Helsinki and Wellington. A substantial survey exhibition of Kentridge’s work opened in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, going on in following years to Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Bogota, Medellin, and Mexico City. In the summer of 2014 Kentridge’s production of Schubert’s Winterreise opened at the Vienna festival, Festival d’Aix, and Holland Festival. In the fall it opened at the Lincoln Center in New York. Paper Music, a concert of projections with live music by Philip Miller, opened in Florence in September 2014, and was presented at Carnegie Hall in New York in late October 2014, and will continue to be performed in different cities. Both the installation The Refusal of Time and its companion performance piece Refuse the Hour were presented in Cape Town in February 2015.
In 2010, Kentridge received the prestigious Kyoto Prize in recognition of his contributions in the field of arts and philosophy. 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. Also in that year, he was awarded the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University, and was named as Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. In 2013, William Kentridge was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by Yale University and in 2014 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cape Town.
Upcoming News & Current Projects
In 2015, Kentridge will direct Alban’s Berg’s opera Lulu in a co-production of the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam (June 2015), the Metropolitan Opera in New York (November 2015), and the English National Opera in London, where it will be performed in October 2016 to coincide with a new exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery.
Other continuing projects in the studio include work on two new multi-channel projection installations. Danse Macabre is conceived as an 8-channel video projection of figures in procession. It was shown first in an installation at the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam in April 2015, and will also be part of a projection biennale in Germany in September. Notes Toward a Model Opera, likely to be a projection over three screens, will be part of a large new survey exhibition which opens in Beijing in June 2015 (the exhibition goes on to museums in Nanjing, Seoul, and other cities in the Far East). For the 2015 Istanbul biennale, Kentridge will work on a new site-specific installation of sound and video. Work continues on Triumphs & Laments, an approximately 500 m frieze of figures to be power-washed from the accumulated pollution on the walls of the Tiber River in Rome – triumphs and laments in the history of Rome – though the project is contingent on permission from the city of Rome.