William Kentridge, Big in Japan

In receiving the R4.17-million Kyoto Prize yesterday, William Kentridge joins an illustrious circle of past winners, including John Cage, Issey Miyake and Nam June Paik

William Kentridge receiving the Kyoyo Prize at a ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, November 10, 2010
KYOTO, Nov. 11, 2010 — William Kentridge, a past recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award (1987) and winner of the Rembrandt Gold Medal at the 1991 Cape Town Triennial, was yesterday honoured with an award of an entirely different status when he received the 26th annual Kyoto Prize for lifetime achievement in arts and
philosophy.

The award, established in 1985 by founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera and KDDI Corp., Kazuo Inamori, is Japan’s highest private award for global achievement and honours
significant contributions to the betterment of society in three categories: advanced technology, basic sciences, and
arts and philosophy. Past winners of the latter category include fashion designer Issey Miyake (2006), German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (2004), pioneering avant-garde artist Nam June Paik (1998), experimental composer John Cage (1989) and Polish film legend Andrzej Wajda (1987).

The first South African to receive the award, Kentridge, who last year made Time magazine’s 100 most influential people list, was singled out for the “unique cosmos” spawned by his time consuming stop-frame filmmaking process. His selection however hinged on far more than just his antique process.

“While dealing with the history and social circumstances of a specific
geographical area, the works of Kentridge probe both universal and
primordial issues bound up with the relationship between the self and
the world, based on his profound insights into the nature of human
existence,” read a statement issued by the Kyoyo Prize, which is convened by the Inamori Foundation. The statement also lauded Kentridge’s ability to convey the idea that “anyone has
the power to actively reconstruct a way to see the world”.

Accompanied to Kyoto by his wife Anne, daughter Alice, son in law
Patrick Young, and Liza Essers from the Goodman Gallery, Kentridge was seated next to
Princess Takamado during the award ceremony, where he received a diploma, 20-karat-gold Kyoto Prize medal and cash gift totalling R4.17-million (Y50-million).

“I am
particularly happy that activities of artistic expression and thought
are placed under the single category of arts and philosophy in the Kyoto Prize,” Kentridge is quoted in a press statement. The artist will travel to San Diego, California, in April next year for the tenth annual Kyoto Prize Symposium.