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Puppets inspire big art gallery purchase

FOUR shadow puppet-inspired bronze sculptures will form the first major acquisition for the Art Gallery of WA’s sculpture courtyard.

The gallery would not disclose the cost of the commission, but said it was in six figures and represented its biggest acquisition for the year.

The works, which will measure between 2.5 metres and 3.5 metres tall, are by pre-eminent South African artist William Kentridge.

Mr Kentridge is already well represented in the State collection with seven videos, three small sculptures, a drawing and a print.

Art Gallery of WA curator of contemporary art Trevor Smith said he had been interested in Kentridge’s work for a number of years.

“With William Kentridge, I’ve followed his work since 1996,” he said.

“We were probably the first museum outside of South Africa to buy one of his films. We hope this commission will capture the imagination of a lot of people and create a bridge between the grand tradition of sculpture gardens with bronze or marble works and contemporary art.”

It was the gallery’s early acquisitions of Kentridge’s work that allowed it to secure these four major sculptural pieces.

Kentridge works across a number of different mediums including film, theatre and sculpture.

The collaborative work that he has completed with the Handspring Puppet Theatre has achieved international recognition.

The works for the sculpture courtyard at the Art Gallery of WA represent the first large-scale sculptural commission outside of South Africa and the first commission by a public institution.

Kentridge’s most recent sculptural works have been derived from his work with shadow puppets.

The puppets were developed to change shape as they moved through ninety degrees. In the sculpture courtyard it is the viewer that will transform the works as they move around the sculpture.

“We’ve shown his work in several exhibitions in relation to the permanent collection,” Mr Smith said.

“The public has had a quite automatic and quite visceral response to his work.”

The works will be housed in the gallery ahead of the completion of the sculpture courtyard.

“We want to build the development around the art,” Mr Smith said.

“The idea is that we’ll acquire a number of pieces before the space gets built because our business is about art and presenting it in the clearest way to the public.

“It’s about the idea of a creative culture and that’s important to WA and WA business.”

Mr Smith said the power of a major acquisition such as this is that it could throw into question people’s assumptions about the concept of what art was.

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