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Porter Series: Egypte

Porter Series: Egypte
signed, titled, inscribed, numbered and dated 'Porter Series: Egypte. Edition STUDIO Copy 1/1 2012 W Kentridge' (on a fabric label sewn to the reverse); stitched 'KENTRIDGE' (on a fabric label affixed to the reverse)
handwoven Mohair tapestry
93 3/8 x 134 5/8in. (250 x 342cm.)
Executed in 2012, this work is a studio copy from an edition of three plus two artist’s proofs and a studio copy
Stephens Tapestry Studio, Johannesburg.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2020.
J. L. Koerner, ‘William Kentridge: Tapestries – A Collaboration with Stephens Tapestry Studio’ in African Arts, Vol. 49, No. 1, Spring 2016, p. 86 (installation view from the Wits Art Museum illustrated in colour, p. 86).
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, William Kentridge: Tapestries, 2007-2008, p. 113, no. 20 (maquette illustrated in colour, p. 31; another from the edition exhibited illustrated in colour, p. 71).
Johannesburg, Wits Art Museum, William Kentridge: Tapestries - A Collaboration with Stephens Tapestry Studio, 2014-2015 (another from the edition exhibited).
Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges, Smoke, Ashes, Fable: William Kentridge in Bruges, 2017 (illustrated in colour pp. 141, 214).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Part of William Kentridge’s Porter series, Egpyte is a monumental tapestry that exemplifies the artist’s ability to intertwine tradition with the contemporary, and politics with culture, into works replete with narrative. Other editions of Egypte have been presented at several important institutions internationally: William Kentridge: Tapestries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 (the first exhibition of the artist’s tapestries in the United States); William Kentridge: Tapestries – A Collaboration with Stephens Tapestry Studio at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg; and Smoke, Ashes, Fable: William Kentridge in Bruges. Egypte forms part of the Porter series’ exploration of movement and migration. Burdened by their belongings—a chair atop the woman’s head and a rucksack strapped to her companion—two silhouetted figures march across the frontiers of the map’s woven surface. Unidentified by age, ethnicity or citizenship, Kentridge’s shadowy people represent the universal experiences of movement across countries and continents. Traversing the intricate 19th-century map, they evoke a period in which our world saw an increase in human mobility and migration, both forced and free-willed, which has led to the globalised world we occupy today. Kentridge’s anonymous figures remind us that migration has shaped our history and continues to mould our modernity.

Tapestry lends itself to Kentridge’s evocation of movement. In her review of the Philadelphia exhibition, Roberta Smith noted that ‘the weaving process could almost be said to animate the collages, to give them a visual energy bordering on motion’ (R. Smith, ‘Shadowy Nomads, Writ in Warp and Woof’, New York Times, 31 December 2007). Indeed, the warps and wefts of the mohair felt conjure the skilled hands that have worked to weave the threads together, while scrawls and sparks of red, blue and yellow woollen embroidery dance within the two figures’ shadowy silhouettes. Tapestry itself holds a complex history. Caught in the divide between art and craft, the ancient tradition has formed a vital method of story-telling throughout the East and West for millennia.

Since 2001, Kentridge has enlisted this historic craft in close collaboration with Marguerite Stephens’ tapestry studio. Beginning with torn paper collages of black silhouettes spliced atop reproductions of 19th-century maps, Kentridge works closely with Stephens’ master weavers to develop the final works. The studio uses hand-carded and hand-spun mohair grown in South Africa, bringing Kentridge’s narratives to life with enormous technical skill. As the Studio Edition, the present work represents the final tapestry of the edition to ever be made. A selection of these tapestries were brought together for Kentridge’s groundbreaking exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2022, the artist’s largest exhibition in the UK. Set amongst his multi-media practice, from charcoal drawing to animation, theatre and opera, it is evident that Kentridge’s tapestries are integral to his career-spanning commitment to depicting and understanding a world in transition.

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