Acclaimed Artist William Kentridge Named 2015-16 Belknap Visitor

October 1, 2015

Internationally renowned artist William Kentridge (born 1955, Johannesburg, South Africa) has been named as the Humanities Council’s 2015–16 Belknap Visitor in the Humanities. As part of his visit, Kentridge—whose complex and provocative projects have bridged a wide variety of media, including drawing, printmaking, film, theater and opera—will deliver a public lecture on October 14 at 5:00PM in McCosh 10. The talk’s title, “O Sentimental Machine,” stems from the artist’s new multimedia installation currently on view at the Istanbul Biennial.  The work, installed on Büyükada Island, was conceived in part as a response to the history of Leon Trotsky’s exile in Istanbul from 1929 to 1933, when he resided in a mansion on the island.

 “William Kentridge’s rigorous work across many platforms engages and reframes the human condition through a disciplined vision of astounding expressive depth,” said Kathleen Crown, Executive Director of the Humanities Council.

Kentridge’s public talk will be introduced by Susan Stewart, Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities at Princeton, and one of the authors of a monograph on Kentridge’s work: William Kentridge Prints.

To celebrate Kentridge’s visit, the Princeton University Art Museum will feature two works by the artist in a special installation: the print Atlas Procession I (2000), an ironic recasting of triumphal procession friezes in classical architecture, which was purchased by the museum in 2002; and the collage Typewriter IV (2011), a deeply saturated ink drawing of a typewriter on found paper, on loan from the Marian Goodman Gallery.

“One of the most powerful and original artists of the last 40 years, William Kentridge has addressed some of the most complex issues of our time, often using drawing—and the act of making, effacing, and remaking—as both means and metaphor for expression” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher-David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director.

Kentridge’s art draws on a range of sources, from philosophy and literature to early cinema, theater and opera. He first gained acclaim in the 1990s for distinctive stop-motion animations, using torn cardboard and charcoal drawings, which often reflected his experiences in South Africa during apartheid and its aftermath. Kentridge’s multifaceted body of work has addressed issues of colonialism, globalization, the Enlightenment, modern Russian history and the nature of time and memory. Visually inventive and moving, his works explore political and poetic themes in ways that are subtle and marked by profound inquiry, ambivalence and humor. 

Kentridge’s work has been displayed in institutions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Albertina Museum, Vienna; and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. In spring 2016 Kentridge will unveil a monumental frieze along the Tiber River in Rome entitled Triumphs and Laments. He has directed opera productions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York; La Scala, Milan; and Théatre de la Monnaie, Brussels. His new production of Alban Berg’s Lulu will open at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in November 2015. Kentridge has received numerous awards, prizes and honorary degrees throughout his career. In 2015 he was appointed an Honorary Academician of the Royal Academy in London.

The program of Belknap Visitors was created to recognize distinguished individuals in the arts and letters. Past visitors have included Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nadine Gordimer, Roy Lichtenstein, Athol Fugard, Doris Lessing, John Updike, Edward Albee, Czeslaw Milosz, Carlos Fuentes, Frank Stella, Robertson Davies, Peter Sellars, Arthur Miller, Merce Cunningham, Harold Pinter, Adrienne Rich, Maurice Sendak, Wim Wenders, Richard Serra, Chuck Close, Twyla Tharp, Ricky Jay, Toshiko Takaezu, Meryl Streep, Roz Chast, Alice Waters, David Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Frank Rich and Maya Lin.

The Humanities Council is pleased to sponsor the Belknap Visitor in the Humanities in partnership with the Princeton University Art Museum installation of two of William Kentridge’s works.

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