Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, William Kentridge attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg from 1973 to 1976 and the Johannesburg Art Foundation from 1976 to 1978. Kentridge originally trained in painting and drawing, but he also studied mime and theater at the L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris from 1981 to 1982. When he returned to South Africa in 1985, he worked as a props assistant on a television series. In 1985 he made his first animated film, Vetkoek/Fete Galante. He developed a method of filmmaking that he dubbed “poor-man’s animation,” in which he photographed charcoal drawings and collages as he gradually adjusted them, as in the early films Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris (1989) and Monument (1990).
Kentridge has exhibited widely since 1981. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1999), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (2001), New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York (2001), Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2002), Castello di Rivoli in Italy (2004), Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2004), Deutche Guggenheim in Berlin (2005), Museum of Modern Art in New York (2006), Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2007), and Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008), among other venues. A major survey of Kentridge’s work was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2008 and traveled to the Norton Museum of Art (2008) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010). He has also participated in many group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (1993 and 2005), Istanbul Biennial (1995), Sydney Biennial (1996), Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1997 and 2002), São Paulo Biennial (1998), Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1999), Shanghai Biennial (2000), and Auckland Triennial (2004). In addition, he has appeared in many international film festivals, among them the New Zealand Film Festival and the Internationales Trickfilm Festival Stuttgart (both 2000). He has received many awards for his work, including the Blue Ribbon Award at the American Film Festival in New York (1985), the Carnegie Prize at the Carnegie International (2000), the Sharjah Biennial Prize (2003), and the Kaiserring prize from the Mönchehaus-Museum für Moderne Kunst in Goslar, Germany (2003). Kentridge was also short-listed for the Hugo Boss Prize in 1998. He lives and works in Johannesburg.