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William Kentridge Hon RA (b. 1955)

The South African artist William Kentridge is internationally acclaimed for his drawing, films, theatre and opera productions. Born in Johannesburg in 1955, he studied politics and African studies at the University of Witwatersrand, fine art at the Johannesburg Art Foundation and physical theatre at L‘École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. This multidisciplinary training is incorporated into his work, which often responds to the legacies of colonialism and apartheid.

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.

From the early 1990s, Kentridge worked closely with Handspring Puppet Company on productions including Woyzeck on the Highveld, Faustus in Africa and Ubu and the Truth Commission. His opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s Lulu. In 2017 his acclaimed production of Wozzeck opened at the Salzburg Festival; it will transfer to the New York Met for the 2019-2020 season.

In 2012 William Kentridge made a five-channel video and sound installation, The Refusal of Time, for Documenta 13. It has since been seen in cities around the world and was jointly acquired by the Met and SFMOMA. Two works first shown in 2015, More Sweetly Play the Dance, an eight-channel video projection first seen in Amsterdam, and Notes Toward a Model Opera, a three-screen projection looking at the Chinese Cultural Revolution, have also now toured internationally.

In April 2016, Kentridge completed an ambitious public art project for Rome entitled Triumphs & Laments. This epic 500m-frieze was created by strategically power-washing away the pollution and bacterial growth along the walls of the Tiber River, to leave behind a procession of over eighty silhouetted figures against the newly exposed stone.

Kentridge has exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, including Documenta in Kassel, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Musée du Louvre in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen. He is the recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities, including Yale and the University of London. In 2010 he received the Kyoto Prize and was appointed an Honorary Royal Academician in 2015. In October 2017, he will receive the Princesa de Asturias Award for the arts.

William Kentridge’s work is held in collections around the world, including: Art Institute of Chicago; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Fondation Cartier pour l‘Art Contemporain, Paris; Istanbul Modern; Kunsthalle Bremen; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing; IZIKO South Africa National Gallery, Cape Town; Tate, London and UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria.


Honorary RA

Born: 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa

Nationality: South African

Elected Hon RA: 10 December 2014

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Sculpture, Film making, Graphic design, Engraving, and Animation