14th Sep, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 25
Lot 25 - William Kentridge (South Africa 1955-)


William Kentridge (South Africa 1955-)
Drawing from 'Preparing for Flute'

charcoal and pastel on collaged paper

Artwork date: 2004-5
Signature details: signed twice bottom left and right
Exhibited: Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. 'William Kentridge: Preparing the Flute', 4 June to 16 July 2005.
Literature: Law-Viljoen, B. (ed). (2007). ‘William Kentridge: Flute’. Johannesburg: David Krut Publishing, illustrated on p.85.

Sold for R1,593,200
Estimated at R1,500,000 - R2,000,000


charcoal and pastel on collaged paper

Artwork date: 2004-5
Signature details: signed twice bottom left and right
Exhibited: Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. 'William Kentridge: Preparing the Flute', 4 June to 16 July 2005.
Literature: Law-Viljoen, B. (ed). (2007). ‘William Kentridge: Flute’. Johannesburg: David Krut Publishing, illustrated on p.85.


80 x 120 cm; framed size: 95.5 x 135.5 x 4.5 cm


Private collection, Cape Town.

Goodman Gallery, Cape Town.


This impressive drawing of a stage provided William Kentridge with an arena in which to think through Mozart’s The Magic Flute and to explore the magic of the opera which in his opinion resides in “how complex and deep questions can be played out with such a light hand, and in the music, which simply floats to our ears, but which has such a gravitas to it at the same time”.[1]

The Magic Flute was the first large-scale opera directed by William Kentridge. While he has since directed several other operas, The Magic Flute remains key. According to the artist, “it is the opera about opera, about the power of music in the service of love”.[2]

In 1998, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels commissioned Kentridge to direct The Magic Flute, Mozart’s last opera and one that has seen many interpretations since it was first performed in 1791. After its Brussels premiere in April 2005, the opera travelled to Lille, Caen, Naples, Tel Aviv, New York, back to Brussels, then on to Cape Town before ending in the director’s home city, Johannesburg.

The larger project embraces the following bodies of work:

  • Learning the Flute, comprising projections on a blackboard, was first shown in Germany in 2004.
  • The miniature version of the theatre where the opera would be premiered in Brussels, which Kentridge constructed along with the related drawings and prints, became the Preparing the Flute project (2005), from which the current drawing is from.
  • The opera, The Magic Flute.
  • Black Box/Chambre Noire which opened at Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin in 2005.

Kentridge’s conceptualisation of the project involved constructing a mini-stage, moving objects about, setting up a camera and testing projections against different backdrops. The constructed stage is the first arena of experimentation, of testing ideas and exploring lighting angles and their impact on action. The stage becomes a space of imagination in which the artist can explore, and test, the full range of possibilities from which his production can develop. The black box, in effect, is the tabula rasa in which the artist’s imagination is free to experiment and create.

Kentridge’s interpretation of this much-loved comedy, The Magic Flute, has provided audiences with unlimited delight and given rise to one of his most sought-after bodies of drawings and prints. This dramatic stage setting allowed the artist to envision and create a range of images and sensations from the joyous swirling of birds to the darker imagery of skulls. As he has pointed out, “the opera is filled with questions of authority, tyranny, benevolence, with assumptions of knowledge – in other words, questions that are still central to politics today”.[3]

Emma Bedford

[1] For a compelling in-depth account by the artist on the making of this opera, see http://www.kentridge.studio/the-magic-flute-directors-note/ Also see Law-Viljoen, B. (2007). William Kentridge: Flute. Parkwood: David Krut Publishing.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Op cit.


The artist is represented in numerous international collections, notably, 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, 14th Sep, 2022


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction. Including 81 carefully selected lots the sale boasts impressive examples by many of South Africa’s most celebrated artists. A fine selection of William Kentridge works, including two original drawings, Eduardo Villa sculptures, painting by Robert Hodgins and Walter Battiss and a wonderful early Penny Siopis drawing are on offer.

Also featured are two special sections – Black Modernism and Photography. Aspire has firmly cemented itself as a champion of both these collecting segments and collectors will be spoilt for choice with a rare drawing by Dumile Feni as well as works by other modernists including Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba and Lucas Sithole and photographs by David Goldblatt, Mohau Modisakeng and Simphiwe Ndzube amongst others.


The exhibition preview is open to the public.

Viewing is from Friday 9 to Wednesday 14 September.

Weekdays from 09h30 to 16h30, Saturdays from 09h30 to 14h00, and Sundays by appointment.

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