William Kentridge - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, May 10, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
    Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in March 1998)

  • Exhibited

    Johannesburg, Goodman Gallery, Drawings for Projection: Four Animated Films, February 21 - March 14, 1992

  • Literature

    Dan Cameron, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and J.M. Coetzee, William Kentridge, London, 1999, p. 63 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1989, South African artist William Kentridge embarked on one of the most ambitious projects in his career, combining his interests in the visual arts and in theater. After having studied theater in Paris in the early 1980s, and turning back to drawing upon his return to his hometown of Johannesburg in 1985, Kentridge began a series of drawings telling a cinematic story, animated into a cycle of nine films. Each of the films feature characters meant to symbolize the conflicts the artist witnessed throughout his life in apartheid-era South Africa. The present lot is a drawing made for the fourth film in Kentridge’s 9 Drawings for Projection in 1991, featuring the main character of Kentridge’s story, Soho Eckstein in bed with his cat. Aptly titled Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old, this fourth film installment revolves around a love triangle between Soho, his wife, and his wife’s love interest, Felix Teitlebaum. In the earlier films, Kentridge portrays Soho as a materialistic and ambitious industrialist who takes for granted his life; after losing his wife to Felix, however, Soho’s demeanor shifts, now left alone with his cat as his only companion. In the present lot, Kentridge highlights Soho’s demise, seen here with eyes closed, covering his pinstripe suit with a blanket. His downfall symbolizes, more broadly, the upcoming end of apartheid two years later, spearheaded by greedy white males like Soho.

    For Kentridge, the drawings made for these nine films are not meant to be considered studies, but rather independent works in their own right. Beginning in 1989 with the first of the 9 Drawings for Projection films, Kentridge showed his animations mostly at film festivals without the accompanying drawings. It was not until an important exhibition at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, in which the present lot was shown, that the artist revealed these drawings to the public. As Neal Benezra explains of this pivotal moment in Kentridge’s career, “The realization that the drawings possessed an independent life beyond the films proved crucial for the artist, for it liberated him to expand further the potential of drawing within the larger body of his work...it is drawing that provides the connective tissue linking the parts of Kentridge’s body of work.” (Neal Benezra, “William Kentridge: Drawings for Projection” in William Kentridge, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2001, p. 21) In its active line work and stark contrasts of light and dark, the present lot thus reminds us of the central pillar in Kentridge’s practice. As the artist himself said of the medium, “Drawing is the primary element or at least the foundation of almost everything I do…You may not agree, but I think drawing is the first step of almost all imaging.” (William Kentridge, quoted in Michael Auping, “Doubline Lines: A “Stereo” Interview about Drawing with William Kentridge” in William Kentridge: Five Themes, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, pp. 241, 244)


Drawing from Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old (Soho in Bed with Cat)

signed and dated "KENTRIDGE '91" lower left
charcoal and pastel on paper
47 1/4 x 58 7/8 in. (120 x 149.5 cm.)
Executed in 1991.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $87,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018