The Warehouse Art Museum opens an exhibition of works by William Kentridge

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – A special new exhibit is now taking over the Warehouse Art Museum in Milwaukee.

“Today he is one of the most important artists in the world. People compare him to Picasso, to DaVinci, in terms of his expertise, his inventiveness, his sense of humor,” said John Shannon, an art collector and founder of Milwaukee’s Warehouse Art Museum of the works of William Kentridge.

Born in South Africa in 1955, Kentridge has become known for his work in various media.

“We have work that you can’t see anywhere else,” said Shannon, who runs the city’s only independent contemporary museum with his wife.

“We have well over 100 pieces by Kentridge. There are 97 in the exhibition. All but one of the pieces are from our collection,” said Shannon.

The exhibition, aptly named See for Yourself, spans decades of art across multiple platforms.

“There are things that are very old, artists sometimes pick up on things that they did many years ago, but there are also pieces on the show that were made in 2022,” Shannon said.

Kentridge grew up in South Africa amidst the strict apartheid law. His parents were both lawyers who handled high-profile cases such as that of the country’s former president, Nelson Mandela.

“His sense of justice and injustice was something that he grew up with and lived with,” Shannon said.

That, Shannon says, drew him to Kentridge’s art, its reflection of struggle and humanity.

“There’s an expression he has: making art, creating meaning,” Shannon said. “Kentridge works with problems a lot and from the beginning he cared about how we live a good life, a real life, in a world that makes it very difficult to live like that.”

Some pieces hide a darker message in a simple image.

“He takes something fairly ordinary and sees the unusual in it. The deeper meaning,” Shannon said.

Some of the pieces are self or family portraits. Others have recurring images of typewriters and rotary phones.

“When you enter this space, the museum, it’s almost as if we are entering his studio,” Shannon said of one of the exhibition replicas.

Artworks include touch stations and interactive installations that are not original Kentridge works, but props to immerse the visitor in his world.

“Normally, when you go to a museum, it’s don’t touch, don’t do this, don’t do that. We encourage people to touch certain things,” Shannon said.

The Shannons say they have dreamed of sharing their Kentridge collection for years and this opportunity has been deeply touching.

“He’s a man with ideas that apply to our world, and it would be foolish … It would be selfish to keep that to ourselves and not share it,” Shannon said.

The Warehouse is a private art museum and research center specializing in modern and contemporary art that opened in 2018. The Warehouse is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

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