About the Artist

William Kentridge in his studio, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2008. William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, production still, 2010. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

William Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1955. He attended the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (1973–76), Johannesburg Art Foundation (1976–78), and studied mime and theater at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris (1981–82). Having witnessed first-hand one of the twentieth century’s most contentious struggles—the dissolution of apartheid—Kentridge brings the ambiguity and subtlety of personal experience to public subjects most often framed in narrowly defined terms.

Using film, drawing, sculpture, animation, and performance, he transmutes sobering political events into powerful poetic allegories. In a now-signature technique, he photographs his charcoal drawings and paper collages over time, recording scenes as they evolve. Working without a script or storyboard, he plots out each animated film, preserving every addition and erasure. Aware of myriad ways in which we construct the world by looking, Kentridge uses stereoscopic viewers and creates optical illusions with anamorphic projection to extend his drawings-in-time into three dimensions.

Kentridge has had major exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm, (2007); and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004), among others. He has also participated in Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008); the Sydney Biennale (1996, 2008); and Documenta (1997, 2002). His opera and theater works, often produced in collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company, have appeared at Brooklyn Academy of Music (2007); Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa (1992, 1996, 1998); and Festival d’Avignon, France (1995, 1996). His production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera, The Nose, premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in conjunction with a retrospective titled Five Themes exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010), as well as other US venues, which is now touring internationally. Time magazine listed the show as one of the best art exhibits of 2009 and included him on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In June, he was selected as the winner of the 2010 Kyoto Prize, a prestigious Japanese award that recognizes visionaries in the arts and sciences. William Kentridge lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.