William Kentridge Portrait
Photo: Norbert Miguletz

William Kentridge Biography

William Kentridge (born Johannesburg, South Africa, 1955) is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions.

His method combines drawing, writing, film, performance, music, theatre, and collaborative practices to create works of art that are grounded in politics, science, literature and history, yet maintaining a space for contradiction and uncertainty.

Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including 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, the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, the Kunstmuseum in Basel and Zeitz MOCAA and the Norval Foundation in Cape Town. He has participated a number of times in Documenta in Kassel (2012, 2002,1997) and the Venice Biennale (2015, 2013, 2005, 1999 and 1993).

Opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s operas Lulu and Wozzeck, and have been seen at opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala in Milan, English National Opera in London, Opera de Lyon, Amsterdam opera, the Sydney Opera House and the Salzburg Festival.

Kentridge’s theatrical productions, performed in theatres and at festivals across the globe include Refuse the Hour, Winterreise, Paper Music, The Head & the Load, Ursonate and Waiting for the Sibyl and in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, Ubu & the Truth Commission, Faustus in Africa!, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse, and Woyzeck on the Highveld.

In 2016 Kentridge founded the Centre for Less Good Idea in Johannesburg: a space for responsive thinking and making through experimental, collaborative and cross-disciplinary arts practices. The centre hosts an ongoing programme of workshops, public performances, and mentorship activities.

Kentridge is the recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities including Yale and the University of London. In 2010, he received the Kyoto Prize. In 2012 he presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. In 2015 he was appointed an Honorary Academician of the Royal Academy in London. In 2017, he received the Princesa de Asturias Award for the arts, and in 2018, the Antonio Feltrinelli International Prize. In 2019 he received the Praemium Imperiale award in painting in Tokyo.

His work can be found in the collections of Art Gallery of Western Australia (Perth), Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Museum of Art (New York), San Diego Museum of Art, Fondation Cartier (Paris), Zetiz MoCAA (Cape Town), Norval Foundation (Cape Town), LACMA (Los Angeles), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Sharjah Art Foundation, Mudam (Luxembourg), Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, MoMA (New York), SF MoMA (San Francisco), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, MoCA (Los Angeles), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), Johannesburg Art Gallery, MAXXI (Rome), Louisiana Museum (Humlebaek,Denmark), National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), National Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto), Israel Museum (Jerusalem), Inhotim Museum (Brumadinho, Brazil), Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris), National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), Tate Modern (London), Sifang Art Museum (Nanjing), Kunsthalle Mannheim, Vehbi Koç Foundation (Istanbul), Luma Foundation (Arles), Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest), Fundaçion Sorigue (Lerida, Spain), Guggenheim (Abu Dhabi), Kunsthalle Praha (Prague) and Amorepacific Museum of Art (Seoul); as well as private collections worldwide.