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Press Contacts: Anne Scher/Alex Wittenberg, 212.423.3271,

PRESS PREVIEW: Tuesday, April 27, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM


New York, NY – The Jewish Museum will present South African Projections: Films by William Kentridge from May 2 through September 19, 2010. South African William Kentridge’s work is internationally acclaimed for its dramatic qualities and for the artist's extraordinary techniques. Using his literary savvy, theatrical background, and political insight, the artist creates allegories about apartheid. Charcoal drawings by Kentridge are successively revised, erased, redrawn, photographed, and presented as film. Four short animated films from the series, Drawings for Projection, 1989-91, part of The Jewish Museum's permanent collection, will be on view. The films - Johannesburg—2nd Greatest City after Paris; Mine; Monument; and Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old – revolve around two fictional Jewish characters, the bloated industrialist Soho Eckstein and the vulnerable artist Felix Teitelbaum. These protagonists embody the social, political, and moral legacy of apartheid.

In the first three films, the viewer sees Soho Eckstein, the voracious, ruthless, self-indulgent industrialist (modeled after Kentridge’s grandfather), shown as a stocky tyrant, his pinstripe suit worn as armor. Eckstein is shown amassing power and wealth at the expense of exploited black South Africans. He indulges his appetites, disregards his wife, abuses his workers, and devastates the South African landscape. Felix Teitelbaum, the artist dreamer and a reflection of Kentridge himself, appears circumspect and vulnerable. In the fourth film, the thoughtful Felix wins the heart of Mrs. Eckstein, though she returns to her husband, the first instance in which Eckstein begins to show pangs of remorse. Together, the two antagonists enact the uncomfortable ironies of a white Jewish minority, with its own memories of social injustice, in a privileged position in a racist society.

The films are hand drawn in a process Kentridge calls “Stone Age.” Capitalizing on his masterful draftsmanship, he creates large-scale charcoal drawings which he then erases and redraws, filming them in the process of transformation. Erasures leave traces of what has been, adding to the strange melancholy with which the films are imbued. Things restlessly and ingeniously morph into other things. The wounded and dying melt into the South African landscape, a cat turns into a machine, its tail into a handle, a coffee pot morphs into a tube that descends into the depths of a mine shaft. In the fourth film, the two antagonists also begin to meld, physically and psychologically, into each other. For Kentridge there are neither heroes nor innocents in the physical and social devastation of apartheid, only victims.

Kentridge’s moral perspective is rooted in his family history. His ancestors emigrated to South Africa from Lithuania in the Russian Empire, to escape anti-Semitism and the pogroms. His father, Sydney Kentridge, was a prominent anti-apartheid lawyer in the most significant political trials of apartheid-era South Africa, representing the families of the Sharpeville victims, investigating Stephen Biko’s death, and participating in the Nelson Mandela trials.

William Kentridge (born 1955) is a versatile artist who is also an actor, director, set designer, sculptor, puppeteer, and printmaker. A large-scale exhibition, William Kentridge: Five Themes, was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2009 and opened at the Museum of Modern Art in February 2010. His staging and design of Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in March 2010. Kentridge has had major exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm, (2007); and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004), among others. He has also participated in Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008); the Sydney Biennale (1996, 2008); and Documenta (1997, 2002). His opera and theater works, often produced in collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company, have appeared at Brooklyn Academy of Music (2007); Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa (1992, 1996, 1998); and Festival d'Avignon, France (1995, 1996). Kentridge has been the recipient of numerous prizes including the Kaiserring Prize (2003), the Carnegie Prize, the Carnegie International (2000), Standard Bank Young Artist Award (1987), and the Red Ribbon Award for Short Fiction (1982).

The exhibition has been organized by The Jewish Museum’s Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator, Norman L. Kleeblatt.

Related Exhibition

South African Photographs: David Goldblatt will be on view at The Jewish Museum from May 2 through September 19, 2010. This exhibition of 150 black-and-white silver gelatin prints taken between 1948 and 2009 focuses on South Africa’s human landscape in the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. David Goldblatt has used his camera to explore South Africa’s mines; the descendants of seventeenth-century Dutch settlers called Afrikaners who were the architects of apartheid; life in Boksburg, a small middle-class white community; the Bantustans or “puppet states” in which blacks were forced to live; structures built for purposes ranging from shelter to commemoration; and Johannesburg, the city in which Goldblatt lives. South African Photographs: David Goldblatt is the largest New York City exhibition of Goldblatt’s work since 2001.

About The Jewish Museum

Widely admired for its exhibitions and educational programs that inspire people of all backgrounds, The Jewish Museum is the preeminent United States institution exploring the intersection of 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture. The Jewish Museum was established in 1904, when Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 ceremonial art objects to The Jewish Theological Seminary of America as the core of a museum collection. Today, the Museum maintains an important collection of 26,000 objects—paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, archaeological artifacts, ceremonial objects, and broadcast media. For more information, visit

General Information

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