30th Nov, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

Lot 16
Lot 16 - William Kentridge (South Africa 1955-)


William Kentridge (South Africa 1955-)

pencil, pastel and charcoal on paper

Artwork date: 1988
Signature details: signed and dated bottom left
Literature: Sittenfeld, M. (ed). (2001). 'William Kentridge'. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, illustrated in colour on p.35.; Christov-Bakargiev, C. (1998), William Kentridge, Brussels: Palais des Beaux-Arts. Illustrated in colour on p.37.

Sold for R3,207,000
Estimated at R3,000,000 - R5,000,000


pencil, pastel and charcoal on paper

Artwork date: 1988
Signature details: signed and dated bottom left
Literature: Sittenfeld, M. (ed). (2001). 'William Kentridge'. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, illustrated in colour on p.35.; Christov-Bakargiev, C. (1998), William Kentridge, Brussels: Palais des Beaux-Arts. Illustrated in colour on p.37.


sheet size: 107 x 155 cm; framed size: 125 x 171 x 5 cm


Private collection, Johannesburg.


Although not mentioned by name, the mixed media drawing Urbanise is one of the landscapes discussed by Kentridge in his article ‘Landscape in a State of Siege’ that was published in Stet magazine in November 1988.[1] In the article, Kentridge explained how neither the image of Africa that he was exposed to at school, nor the conventions of European landscape painting that formed an important part of his aesthetic education, corresponded to his experience of his environment as he was growing up. In fact, as he wrote, he soon came to recognise that, in their denial of the historical processes of dispossession and appropriation, the heroic landscapes of South African art history are not only false but actually “documents of disremembering”.

Kentridge described his understanding of landscape as “essentially urban”. “It has to do with visions from the roadside, with landscape that is articulated, or given a meaning, by incidents across it, pieces of civil engineering, the lines of pipes, culverts, fences”. In Urbanise and other landscapes in this series, evidently, this catalogue of civil engineering details has developed into fractured peri-urban wastelands of billboards, broken stadia, constructions sites, etc. “It has become clear that the variety of the ephemera of human intervention on the landscape is far greater than anything the land itself has to offer”. By focussing on the human history of landscape, Kentridge uses the genre to resist what he calls the “Disease of Urbanity”, that South African tendency to absorb contradiction and compromise in daily life that, for him, constitutes another form of “disremembering”.

The title Urbanise almost certainly reflects this idea of urbanity – the first two syllables are emphasised in the drawing. But it also suggests the fateful rhetoric of early twentieth-century socialist revolutionaries. In both verbal and visual forms, Kentridge embraces ambiguity and contradiction: the pine tree symbol of ‘Spar’, the suburban grocery chain, for example, is opposed to a short line of poplar trees which, in turn, echo the form of a dining fork in the foreground. And the word ‘Spar’ itself is connected to those ‘stout poles’ that constitute one of its dictionary meanings. This play with words and forms is enabled by Kentridge’s adoption of the collage style, that method of representing one’s environment not as the harmonious unitary space of the South African landscape tradition, but as “a non-stop flow of incomplete, contradictory elements, impulses and sensations”.[2] It is in this disjointed vision of the world that Kentridge is able to depict his wife, Ann Stanwix, sharing a billboard with a motor car advertisement.

Michael Godby

[1] ‘Landscape in a State of Siege’ is republished in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. (1998). William Kentridge. Brussels: Societe des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts. pp.43-49. Urbanise is illustrated on page 37 but dated incorrectly 1989.

[2] William Kentridge in conversation with Rose Korber in ‘Revealing the Truth of Veld that Lies’, Weekly Mail, April 1988, reprinted in Christov-Bakargiev, William Kentridge, p.161.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California and The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 30th Nov, 2022


The focused sale brings to market 84 highly collectable lots, with the diverse collection showcasing highlights by modern masters including magnificent still-life compositions and a Zanzibari boat scene by Irma Stern, an Alexis Preller abstract and an early JH Pierneef landscape. Also included is a significant collection of celebrated contemporary artists: Mustafa Maluka, David Koloane, Walter Oltmann, Norman Catherine, Willem Boshoff, a rare self-portrait oil by Robert Hodgins as well as a large bronze sculpture by Zanele Muholi, the first of this new body of work to be offered on auction.
The sale features a special selection of artworks by William Kentridge. One of the most celebrated and influential living artists today, his major retrospective exhibition is currently on show at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. This is one of the most unique and high-quality Kentridge collections to come to market. Spanning his career and showcasing the many mediums in which he works, the sale features signature charcoal drawings alongside collages, tapestry, prints and sculptures.

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