Biography of William Kentridge
Ambivalently exploring the state of post-apartheid South Africa, William Kentridge has built up a powerful though remarkably subtle body of work. Probably the most famed South African artist currently at work, Kentridge works with what could be considered a limited technique, but what he is capable of achieving with charcoal and pastel is nothing short of extraordinary.
Born in 1955 in Johannesburg—his parents were famed civil rights lawyers—his talent was spotted early and he studied mime and theater at the L’Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. After working as an art director he took up printing and drawing which has remained the foundation of his art practice.
He achieved significant critical attention for his film Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris, 1989, which documents the journeys of the capitalist Soho Eckstein and his alter ego, the fragile artist Felix Teitelbaum. Always keen to engage with the political situation in South Africa, Kentridge draws from topical events such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in his art. For him political art should be one of “ambiguity, contradiction and uncompleted gestures and uncertain ending”, an art of ambivalence where “optimism is kept in check, and nihilism at bay.”
His art can be found in all major collections around the world including MoMA, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art both in New York, and Tate Modern, London. A regular participant at documenta he was also been involved in the 1999 Venice Biennale. In 2012 Kentridge was the artist in residence at Harvard University where he delivered the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton lectures. In 2016 his exhibition “William Kentridge: Thick Time” opened at the Whitechapel Gallery in London which explores the history of colonialism, time, and fate. In 2016 he had a highly successful exhibition, “No it is!” at Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin.