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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Princess of Asturias Awards


William Kentridge, Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts

South African artist William Kentridge has been granted the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, as made public today in Oviedo by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award.


South African artist William Kentridge has been granted the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, as made public today in Oviedo by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award.

The Jury for this Award –convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation– was chaired by José Lladó y Fernández-Urrutia and composed of Bárbara Allende Gil de Biedma, Ouka Leele, Juan Manuel Bonet Planes, José Luis Cienfuegos Marcello, Oliver Díaz Suárez, Josep María Flotats i Picas, Carmen Giménez Martín, Blanca Gutiérrez Ortiz, Blanca Li, José Lladó Fernández-Urrutia, Catalina Luca de Tena y García-Conde, Joan Matabosch Grifoll, Elena Ochoa Foster, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán y de la Serna, Sandra Rotondo Urcola, Emilio Sagi Álvarez-Rayón, Patricia Urquiola Hidalgo, Carlos Urroz Arancibia and José Antonio Caicoya Cores (as acting secretary).

This candidature was put forward by Benigno Pendás García, member of the Jury for the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, and Raquel García Guijarro, manager of Spain’s Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies (CEPC).

William Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1955. His parents were both lawyers specialized in defending the victims of apartheid. Sir Sydney Kentridge played a leading role in cases such as the Treason Trial as counsel for the defence of Nelson Mandela. This circumstance shaped his university education before he devoted himself entirely to art.

Kentridge studied Politics and African Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he graduated in 1976. He subsequently enrolled in Fine Arts at the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He moved to Paris in the eighties to study theatre at the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School and worked as an artistic director in television series before beginning to create animations from his own drawings. Since the nineties, he has combined the practice of drawing with film and theatre, becoming a multidisciplinary artist who has also cultivated scenography, collage, engraving, sculpture and video art.

A meticulous and profound creator, William Kentridge has chosen drawing as a vehicle for expressing emotions and metaphors related to South African history and its socio-political reality. He became known abroad after his participation in the documenta X art exhibition held in Kassel (Germany, 1997) and in the São Paulo (Brazil, 1998) and Venice (Italy, 1999) biennials. Since then, his cartoons or “hand-drawn films”, as some specialists call them, have been shown in the halls of the most prestigious art centres on the international circuit. Unlike other animation techniques, his consists in the filming of drawings that he modifies again and again, erasing and adding strokes of Expressionist inspiration, according to experts, by means of a monochrome palette with slight touches of pastel blue or red.

The engravings of what is known as the Pit series, almost thirty monotypes or unique prints made in the seventies, and of the so-called Domestic Scenes, fifty small format engravings produced in the eighties, built the foundation on which his charcoals and later animations rest. Among these, Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris (1989) and Felix in Exile (1994) stand out for the introduction of two characters, Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum, through whom he portrays suffering, domination, guilt, time and memory, leading themes in his oeuvre. The self-portrait and autobiographical references are habitual in works like Automatic Writing (2003).

Starting in 2003, Kentridge began to be interested in sculpture and video installations and to include references to theatre, opera and film in his new works. Over the past decade, he has shown his artistic production at the MoMA (New York), which gave him a retrospective in 2010, the Albertina Museum (Vienna), the Louvre (Paris) and the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, among other museums. In 2016, he founded the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, a “space” given over to the artistic creation of cross-disciplinary projects. Awarded the Kyoto Prize (Japan, 2010) and the Dan David Prize (Israel, 2012), Kentridge is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and holds honorary degrees from Yale University (USA) and the University of Cape Town (South Africa). In 2013, he was named Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

As stated in the Statutes of the Foundation, the Princess of Asturias Awards are aimed at rewarding “the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions”. In keeping with these principles, the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts shall be conferred on those “whose work constitutes an outstanding contribution to progress and social well-being at an international level via de promotion and advancement of filmmaking, theatre, dance, music, photography, painting, sculpture, architecture or any other form of artistic expression”.

This year a total of forty-two candidatures, from 19 different countries, have been nominated for this award.

This is the first of eight Princess of Asturias Awards, which are being bestowed this year for the thirty-seventh time. The rest of awards will be announced in the coming weeks in the following order: Communication and Humanities, International Cooperation, Sports, Social Sciences, Literature, Technical and Scientific Research, and Concord.

Each of the Princess of Asturias Awards comprises a Joan Miró sculpture –representing and symbolizing the Awards–, a cash prize of 50,000 euros, a diploma and an insignia. The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by TM The King and Queen of Spain.

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