William Kentridge: Egyptian Sketchbooks

As part of its policy in favour of contemporary art, the Louvre has invited the South African artist William Kentridge to intervene with a specific project around the theme of ancient Egypt.

Parallel to the artist’s monographic exhibition – currently showing at the Jeu de Paume, Carnets d’Egypte in the Denon wing of the Louvre – consists in a new set of drawings, collages, and books by William Kentridge alongside etchings, albums and drawings (belonging to the graphic arts department of the Louvre) by artists of the XVI to the XIX century, from Dupérac to Delacroix, from Poussin to Le Brun and Crapelet – who during their travels recorded the pyramids, archaeological ruins, explorers, and different transformations from the cat to the lion.

A series of short videos with music composed by Philip Miller, are also shown in the Sully wing of Egyptian antiquities. Kentridge’s videos are conceived as notebooks, and are projected on the four-poster bed of Louis XIV, as though it were the stage of some sort of a baroque theatre. Here the artist puts himself in scene with humour, adopting the position of the scribe, while he recites Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem Ozymandias -an ode to Ramses II. William Kentridge has been interested in Ancient Egypt and has been exploring its iconography since 2004 for the scenography of Mozart’s enchanted Flute. For this exhibition he mixes different references: Shelley, but also Hegel, the Napoleonic campaigns of the end of the XVIII century, the figure of the scribe, Verdi’s Aida… the constructed and deconstructed image of the Sphinx – at times sculpture or drawing, that becomes the symbol of this exhibition.

Text courtesy of the Louvre website, 2010.