William Kentridge: Five Themes


From 30 September 2011 to 4 December 2011


Garage Center for Contemporary Art


A major survey of the contemporary South African artist William Kentridge will open at Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in September 2011. Curated by Mark Rosenthal, William Kentridge: Five Themes will feature more than 40 influential works from the last three decades, including drawing, film, collage, printmaking, sculpture, books and stage design.

Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa - where he continues to live and work - Kentridge first earned international acclaim in the 1990s with a series of ‘drawings for projection’: short animated films portraying daily life under apartheid. In his post-apartheid career, which is the focus of this survey, Kentridge has enlarged the thematic range of his work to examine other political conflicts. His oeuvre charts a universal history of war and revolution and includes Namibia and Ethiopia, as well as the cultural history of post-revolutionary Russia.  His work evokes very complex memories and images left in deep psychological traces after devastating policies and regimes. In contrast to traditional political art, Kentridge’s work portrays the effects of political events upon those who observe and remember them, whether they be perpetrators, victims or onlookers. 

The exhibition also includes works created in preparation for The Nose, Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera of 1930, directed by Kentridge last year for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The opera is based on Nikolai Gogol's absurdist short story of 1836 – in which the nose of a Russian burocrat disappears from his face, only to turn up, in uniform, as a higher-ranking official moving in more respected circles.  Kentridge uses the story to examine Russian modernism and the suppression of the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s and 1930s.

William Kentridge: Five Themes is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Norton Museum of Art. Generous support for the exhibition is provided by the Koret Foundation.  Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Download press release (doc) 


William Kentridge studied at the Johannesburg Art Foundation and the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. He was a founding member of the Free Filmmakers Co-operative in 1988. In 1998, a major retrospective exhibition opened at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. A second exhibition, co-organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, took place in 2001. Kentridge has participated in a number of international biennials and in Documenta X (1997) and XI (2002). He has also been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Kaiserring Prize (2003), the Carnegie Prize, the Carnegie International (2000), Standard Bank Young Artist Award (1987) and the Red Ribbon Award for Short Fiction (1982).


  • General partner of the exhibition