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Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary African Art

|
London

William Kentridge
B.1955
WORLD ON ITS HIND LEGS
CorTen,rust finish steel
71 by 42 by 61 cm., 28 by 16½ by 24in.
Executed in 2010, this work is unique
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Provenance

Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, France
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Paris, Marian Goodman Gallery, William Kentridge: Breathe, Dissolve, Return, 2010

Literature

Lilian Tone, William Kentridge: Fortuna, Thames and Hudson Ltd (Book), 2013

Catalogue Note

World on its Hind Legs was conceived as a public art piece by Kentridge and his long-time collaborator Gerhard Marx. The image is based on Kentridge’s drawings for an Italian newspaper in which he addressed the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935. The first maquette was made of torn sheets of paper and cardboard; the fragmented nature of that work remains in the finished sculpture. While the world appears so powerful and direct in its stride, this composition can only be seen from two vantage points, suggesting the fragile and tenuous nature of how the world is held together. The public art work unveiled in Johannesburg in 2010 stands more than 13 feet tall and weighs 9,000 pounds. Another version exists in an edition of 6, but the present lot is unique.

‘All my work is rooted in this rather desperate provincial city’ (Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, William Kentridge, 1998, p.14). Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, Kentridge’s artistic practice has become irrevocably tied to the second largest city on the continent and to the history of the country which he continues to call home. Kentridge’s trajectory as an artist was not evident from the start. Originating from a family of lawyers, Kentridge earned a degree in Politics and African Studies from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg before traveling to Paris’s École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq to study mime and theatre. Upon discovering that his talents did not lie on the stage or in front of a camera, Kentridge turned to drawing. The lasting impact of Kentridge’s theatrical past can easily be seen within his works.

As politically engaged as they are expressive, lyrical and poetic, Kentridge creates works ranging from prints, drawings, video work and sculpture in order to investigate pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. Often possessing an autobiographical quality, a work by Kentridge analyses his life in apartheid South Africa as a white Jewish male and his relationship to the suffering that was occurring around him by the black South African majority. William Kentridge is perhaps most known for his practice of creating and then erasing charcoal drawings, all the while recording the entire process. Exhibiting the drawings alongside the video recordings directly connects the importance of his artistic practice to his broader thematic intentions. Although Kentridge’s work can appear visually antiquated through the use of historic materials such as maps and photographs, they are in fact deeply contemporary and topical. 

Kentridge believes that we each ‘approach the outside world very much in terms of what is happening inside us’ (William Kentridge, Angela Breidbach, William Kentridge: Thinking Aloud, 2005, p. 91). Made from various pieces of abstractly cut steel this beautiful sculpture is incredibly engaging and lends itself to this narrative. Every angle from which one observes World on its Hind Legs presents a new perspective for the viewer. From one angle, a globe resting on its two hind legs and from another, a more abstract vision that bears little to no resemblance to the one before.  The work is presented on the original wood pedestal selected by the artist and in total measures 162.5 by 65 by 69cm. (widest).

Kentridge has enjoyed much international success. The artist can boast numerous solo exhibitions at renowned locations such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and more recently, The Whitechapel Gallery in London.

Modern and Contemporary African Art

|
London