14th Sep, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 35
Lot 35 - William Kentridge (South Africa 1955-)


William Kentridge (South Africa 1955-)
Landscape with billboard

charcoal on Fabriano paper

Signature details: signed and inscribed '68'

Estimated at R1,500,000 - R2,000,000


charcoal on Fabriano paper

Signature details: signed and inscribed '68'

55.5 x 76 cm; framed size: 84.5 x 104 x 2.5 cm


Private collection, Johannesburg.


Internationally regarded for his intellectually expressive work in a variety of graphic mediums, film and sculpture, William Kentridge continues to garner critical acclaim for his many creatively ambitious artistic projects.

This arresting charcoal drawing depicts a solemn landscape, seemingly a desolate park, featuring – almost out of place – another depiction of the infamous ‘billboard’ image, a notable recurring ‘Kentridge motif’ as seen in many of his drawings and films – like in the opening scene of the animation film Johannesburg, Second Greatest City after Paris (1989) and most notably in Other Faces (2011) for example. This motif is not only a literal reference to the industrial structures of the Johannesburg landscape, but uniquely used by the artist as a conceptual and symbolical metaphor, or to integrate additional projections within the drawings for his animated films.

In the late 1980s Kentridge started a project of driving into the countryside and drawing whatever landmark presented itself; be it fragments of billboards, pylons, stadiums, barbed wire fences etc. The resulting charcoal drawings formed part of a larger body of drawings Kentridge produced in 1988. That same year, he gave a lecture titled Landscape in a State of Siege, in which he spoke of his desire to avoid "the plague of the picturesque". Kentridge’s charcoal sketches are intended to counter the romanticised depictions of the South African landscape, as he believes these sentimental views were deliberate acts of dis-remembering: "I had not seen, and in many ways feel I have not yet seen, a picture that corresponds to what the South African landscape feels like. I suppose my understanding of the countryside is essentially an urban one. 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"[1].

This drawing is reminiscent of the central barren landscape scene in the film Felix in Exile, produced in 1994, and might have been a precursor to the drawing created for the animation.

Here, the scene is almost dreamlike – open ended. What has been projected, or what is to be projected? The landscape itself is the central character, with a life of its own. In his work, Kentridge is interested in the evolution of the physical environment as a result of human behaviour; landscapes are always in a state of transformation, acquiring new meanings with each event and occurrence.

Of his landscape drawings during this time, Kentridge states: “I started calling myself an artist in my thirties when I discovered not just the necessity but the pleasure of drawing the landscape just to the south of Johannesburg. And also when I discovered the pleasure of a soft chamois leather dipped into charcoal dust and wiped across the white surface of the paper, leaving not just a train of dark charcoal grit on the paper but also of a darkening sky above a light horizon.

[1] Boris, S. (2001). The Process of Change: Landscape, Memory, Animation and ‘Felix in Exile,’ in ‘William Kentridge’, New York: Abrams, pp.29-35.


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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