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Notations/William Kentridge: Tapestries
December 12, 2007 - April 6, 2008
Man with Bed on Back
Porter Series—Man with Bed on Back, 2006
William Kentridge (South African, b. 1955)
Mohair, silk and embroidery
123 x 90 3/4 inches
Private collection
Notations/William Kentridge: Tapestries
December 12, 2007 - April 6, 2008
Incisively political and profoundly poetic, William Kentridge's protean artistic investigation continues in his beautiful series of tapestries begun in 2001. The tapestries stem from a series of drawings in which he conjured shadowy figures from ripped construction paper and collaged them onto the web-like background of nineteenth-century atlas maps. As the fourth and most ambitious installment of "Notations"—the Museum's ongoing series of installations that explore specific aspects of contemporary art—William Kentridge: Tapestries is the first exhibition of the artist's tapestries in the United States. The tapestries, along with related works—drawings, bronze sculptures, etchings, and an artist book—fill two galleries, plotting a course through the artistic context from which the tapestries originate.

Exhibition Minutes

Layers represent the passage of time...
Listen to or download artist William Kentridge's 7-part Podcast.

Listen to or download Curator Carlos Basualdo's 2-part Podcast.
Available in Exhibition Minutes Podcast - iTunes
The hybrid figures that emerge in multiple mediums throughout the exhibition derive from Kentridge's longstanding interest in shadows and projections. Collaged atop atlas pages in Kentridge's Puppet Drawings, marching across the accordion-style encyclopedia in his Portage book, and materializing into bronze sculptures, the figures—often burdened with the weight of objects and the world—become refugees, migrants, and movers of possessions. Silhouetted so that porter and parcel become one, Kentridge's processional characters evoke the political and cultural volatility that characterized recent South African history while also alluding to a global condition of transit and transition.

To reincarnate these figures into tapestry, Kentridge worked in close collaboration with the Johannesburg-based Stephens Tapestry Studio, mapping out cartoons from enlarged photographs of the drawings and hand-picking dyes to color the locally spun mohair (goat hair). The tapestries' processional figures trek across mapped geography and into new artistic territory for Kentridge, but one in which the mechanism of drawing and the power of shadows remain central to his representations of a world in transition.



Support for this exhibition is provided by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts. Additional funding was provided by a generous gift from Dina and Jerry Wind.


Carlos Basualdo • Curator of Contemporary Art
Erica Battle • Project Curatorial Assistant


Galleries 172, 173, and 176, first floor