William Kentridge Opens Art Foundation in Johannesburg
South African artist William Kentridge has set up an arts foundation close to his studio in Johannesburg, providing a “safe space for uncertainty, doubt, stupidity and at times, failure”, he says.
The artist has called his foundation the Centre for the Less Good Idea. He makes reference to the creation process that sees artists disrupted from discovering their original idea, and focusing on other concepts that emerge during the process of making.
The foundation is set up in a converted warehouse in central Johannesburg, which houses his studio as well as other art spaces. It aims to answer a real need in the city and across the country for alternatives to beleaguered public art spaces.
According to Kentridge, “it’s a small arts centre, the budget is modest, but it should enable us to have two seasons a year, the seasons being defined by the different curators who run them.”
The artist hopes to give creative individuals the freedom to explore their ideas without having to conform to anyone’s agenda. When non-governmental bodies (NGOs) fund arts projects in South Africa, “the work that is done is always shaped by the needs of the NGOs and the demands of what has to appear in the proposals of the different organisations, which is not the way a lot of art happens at its best”, Kentridge says.
Artists should follow their instincts, he says, and listen to the ideas of other creative individuals, even if the results are not always successful. “Of the 19 performances we did in the first season, between four and six were spectacular. There were other performances that felt really solid and imaginative, and some that were about testing things out, some of which worked less successfully.”
Kentridge points out that his artistic failures have made him the artist he is today. “In my own life, there have been many, many failures. I wanted to paint in oil paints, I failed at that. I went to Paris to become an actor, I failed at that too. I wanted to make films and write film scripts, and I also failed at that. So, I was reduced to being an artist. Yet many years later I discovered that all these different areas in which I had tried to specialise and make a life for myself, all of these failures in fact provided very rich material.”
‘’The centre’s second season will again, have a strong performative element, as this is the way in which audiences gather together and a sense of community is fostered much more potently than at the opening of an art exhibition”. ‘’The focus will be on work with electronic engineers and performers and artists”, he says.
He adds: “Ideally, we would have doubled the space and doubled the money, but I think the small scale is also good. As soon as it gets larger it gets lost in questions of committees and trustees, and suddenly everyone is having to write big proposals to justify their work before it is made rather than allowing the work to come from the very uncertainty around it.”
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