William Kentridge (South African, born 1955) Rebus 2013

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 24* TP
William Kentridge
(South African, born 1955)

Sold for £ 250,062 (US$ 318,699) inc. premium
William Kentridge (South African, born 1955)

Each: signed with the artist's initials and numbered 12/12 on the base
Each: bronze

Smallest bronze: 22 by 16.3 by 28 cm.
8 11/16 by 6 7/16 by 11 in.

Largest bronze: 37.5 by 28 by 21 cm.
14 3/4 by 11 by 8 1/4 in.

As installed: 172 by 332.5 by 33.5 cm.
67 11/16 by 130 7/8 by 13 3/16 in.

This work was executed in 2013.


  • Provenance
    Annandale Galleries, Sydney
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, William Kentridge, 2013
    Sydney, Annandale Galleries, William Kentridge: SO, 2014, pp. 19-27, illustrated in colour
    Beijing, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, William Kentridge: Notes Towards a Model Opera, 2015, p. 247, illustrated in colour
    Seoul, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, William Kentridge: Peripheral Thinking, 2015-2016

    William Kenridge's Rebus created between 2013 and 2014 is a rare and extraordinary example of the acclaimed South African artist's practice. A unique piece of artistry representing Kentridge's transformative imagination and unparalleled ability to stage theatrical illusions, these nine roughly cast representations of everyday objects represent the apex of a larger body of work based on the concept of the rebus, igniting the viewer's imagination whilst bending the laws of kinetics and perspective.

    "At first they were very simple drawings", the artist said about the series, "and then I started wondering what would happen if the order of the images was changed, as if they were part of a narrative that was being rewritten, or as if they were a series of picture books that could be read to a child in very different ways. And so they changed from drawings to cardboard cut-outs and from cardboard cut-outs into three-dimensional [...] sculptures which could, when turned, transform from a fruit bowl to a cone, from a megaphone to a square; hieroglyphs of sorts, in which an invitation is extended to the viewer to make sense of the nonsense – and what is offered is not a natural interpretation, but rather the possibility of sense. There is an invitation to make our own rebus from the elements, a narrative sentence from the different pieces" (the artist in: Sydney, Annandale Galleries, William Kentridge: SO, 2014, p. 18).

    Epitomised in Rebus, the metamorphic potential of imagery as well as the ability to create or deduce multiple meanings from a single source are of central importance to the understanding of Kentridge's oeuvre. Referring to the illusionary device which uses images and symbols in order to represent words or parts of words, the artist's choice of title suggests a sense of narrative and progression, creating abstract or imagined associations between each object. In Rebus, each element morphs into another when turned on its side - the bird, for instance, reshapes into a cage, while the telephone and stamp transform into a nude. Kentridge's work is always layered and open to interpretation, a factor that is further entrenched in the present work not only by the dual quality of each sculpture – a naturally static medium– but also by the changeable nature of their shadows. The innate semiotics of each element in Rebus lend themselves naturally to the questioning of preconceived notions of assumed knowledge and perception, compelling the viewer to shift their focus away from the duplicitous bronzes and onto the shadows they cast.

    Bridging the gap between past and present, the aesthetic and the political, the static and the kinetic, Kentridge's complex work is both art-historically relevant and politically crucial. Working in a wide range of media, Kentridge is particularly celebrated for his use of shadows as both a kinetic instrument but also as a political metaphor. In Rebus, Kentridge reverses Plato's allegory of the cave, whereby the world of knowledge and enlightenment can only exist outside the cave and those living inside the ignorance of its obscurity must strive to make their journey towards the light. Here, the viewer is encouraged to move away from the light and find new meaning in the world of shadows. Often interpreted as a critique of the South African apartheid, the use of obscurity in the artist's practice addresses the way in which authoritarian regimes use coercion to lead population to blindness in order to assert false certainties.

    Executed on the heels of his critically acclaimed immersive installation The Refusal of Time from 2012 (first shown at Documenta 13 and now jointly owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), Kentridge's bronze Rebus is an outstanding example of his oeuvre and was included in both of the artist's major Asian retrospectives - held respectively at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art/UCCA, Beijing in 2015 and at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul in 2015-16. Issuing from a distinguished Australian collection, the present work was acquired from the Annandale Galleries in Sidney following the solo exhibition William Kentridge: SO in 2014.
William Kentridge (South African, born 1955) Rebus 2013
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
* Import low rate

VAT on imported items at a preferential rate of 5% on Hammer Price and the prevailing rate on Buyer's Premium.

TP Off site storage location

Lots denoted with a "TP" will be moved to an offsite storage location (Cadogan Tate, Auction House Services, 241 Acton Lane, London NW10 7NP, UK) and will only be available for collection from this location at the date stated in the catalogue. Please note transfer and storage charges will apply to any lots not collected after 14 calendar days from the auction date.