Deichtorhallen Hamburg



23 October 2020 - 1 August 2021

The work of the South African artist, filmmaker, and theater and opera director William Kentridge (*1955 in Johannesburg) will be presented in a major exhibition at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg from 23 October 2020 to 1 August 2021. The exhibition was conceived and organized by the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in collaboration with William Kentridge. Kentridge deals with topics such as social injustice, the history of South Africa, colonialism, family, refuge, and displacement in a wide variety of media. However, his artistic practice always begins with drawing, which is the main medium and focus of the exhibition.

William Kentridge is one of the world’s most important contemporary visual artists and has also made a name for himself internationally as a theater and opera director. Having grown up as a child of parents who fought apartheid in South Africa, world politics is part of Kentridge’s own biography and oeuvre. His works visualize the sociocultural effects of post-colonialism and apartheid from the perspective of his home country.

The exhibition Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work offers a comprehensive overview of the entire oeuvre of the South African artist and, according to Kentridge, is the largest presentation of his work to date. It features works spanning over 40 years of artistic production, including drawings, animated films, videos, prints, sculptures, tapestries, and large-scale installations.

The first part of the exhibition title, Why Should I Hesitate, quotes the comment of an African soldier who learned of his conscription in World War I. Kentridge thus illustrates his own reluctance to overcome this issue as a “white child of the apartheid.” At the same time, he shows how cultures and history are interwoven between the continents. “His work invites us to reflect on how deeply rooted the colonial system is in European history,” says Dirk Luckow, director of the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The second part of the title, Putting Drawings to Work, refers to Kentridge’s drawing practice, which is the origin and basis of his entire oeuvre: “The line is going to lead you—it is going to be the dog that is pulling you on the leash,” as he himself said.

Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work was curated by Azu Nwagbogu, Tammy Langtry, and the Kentridge Studio. It is divided into three chapters: “The Biography” presents a chronology of Kentridge’s artistic practice with early drawings and the transitions to prints, film, theater, and installations with a focus on the studio as a machine for thinking. It encourages the viewer to make imaginative leaps across continents, bridging social, political, and economic systems and thus also establishing personal connections.
The processes of creation and the staging of monumental works on the subjects of migration, mourning, celebration, and history will be shown in “The Procession.” At the center is the 40-meter multichannel video projection More Sweetly Play the Dance, an endless procession of shadows in constant motion.The chapter “Retrospective, Drawings for Projection” offers an overview of the iconic series of Kentridge’s stop motion animation films. This series attempts to record the process of drawing—a desire, as Kentridge explains, to understand drawing “not as a finished, finite fact, but something that is provisional.”

The staging of the show at the Deichtorhallen, which was conceived by the stage designer Sabine Theunissen in close cooperation with William Kentridge, takes up the playful and poetic in Kentridge’s art, as a universe of charcoal drawings and silhouettes.




William Kentridge was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he currently lives and works. Since the 1990s, Kentridge’s works have been exhibited around the world at venues including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Albertina in Vienna, Whitechapel Gallery in London, and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. William Kentridge has also participated in multiple editions of documenta in Kassel and the Venice Biennale. In 2016 his 500-meter-long frieze Triumphs and Laments was presented along the bank of the Tiber in Rome. In December 2019, the screens in New York’s Time Square featured his work To What End?.

His opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s Lulu, which have been performed at opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala in Milan, and the English National Opera in London. In the summer of 2017, the premiere of Kentridge’s production of Berg’s Wozzeck for the Salzburg Festival took place. The Head and the Load was critically acclaimed in London and New York in 2018.

Kentridge has received honorary doctorates from several universities, including Yale University and the University of London, and in 2012 he gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. In 2010 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize. In 2015 he was appointed an Honorary Royal Academician. In 2017 he received the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, and in 2018 the Feltrinelli Prize.

The exhibition is conceived and organizey by Zeitz MOCAA in collaboration with Willliam Kentridge. 




Left image: More Sweetly Play The Dance. Installation at Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, 2015. Photography: Studio Hans Wilschut. Courtesy William Kentridge Studio; Central image: Porter Series: Espagne Ancienne (Porter With Dividers), 2005 © William Kentridge ; Right image: Installation view, Reading Room, 2019 at Zeitz MOCAA. Artwork: Courtesy of the Artist and Goodman Gallery. Image courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA. Photo: © Anel Wessels

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Deichtorhallen Hamburg

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Deichtorstraße 1–2
20095 Hamburg

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Bus 112 or U1 to station Steinstraße. From there on it will take you only about 2 minutes on foot to the Deichtorhallen.

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