William Kentridge – Drawing from Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris (Soho Eating)

13 May 2020

William Kentridge’s distinctive fusion of film, drawing, sculpture, graphics, music, theatre, and opera have made him the most widely recognised South African artist in the world today. Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris is the first of Kentridge’s ten internationally celebrated Soho Eckstein films which explore the gradual transformation of Soho through his interactions with his alter-ego Felix Teitlebaum and with his ever-changing environment. 1989 was a critical time in South Africa’s history as the world held its breath awaiting the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990 and the country was poised on the cusp of radical political and social change.

Both the film and this seminal drawing offer incisive ways of re-thinking our world, particularly at this time. The sheer iconoclastic power of this Soho image as the ultimate symbol of unconscionable greed is remarkable, providing evidence of the artist’s extraordinary ability to create a significant artistic and political statement from a few strokes of charcoal on paper.

While the story unfolds on South African soil, it explores universal themes that transcend the local. Some of the artist’s earliest, and politically most influential, artistic precursors are European in origin including Hogarth, Bertolt Brecht and importantly, French Symbolist writer Alfred Jarry whose absurd portrayal of bourgeoisie greed in the figure of Ubu Roi was a major stimulus for Kentridge’s Soho character.

Says Ruarc Peffers, MD of Aspire Art Auctions; “How serendipitous that this drawing comes from Kentridge’s film, Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris, where it features prominently! The fact that our next auction will be conducted in Paris, allows us to explore many of our mutual interests in top quality artworks from the African continent that offer insights into both the commonality and diversity of our shared cultures”.


William Kentridge (b.1955 South Africa), Drawing from Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris (Soho Eating), 1989

charcoal and pastel on paper, 110 x 130 cm



Goodman Gallery, 1991


Godby, M. (1992). William Kentridge: Drawings for Projection – Four Animated Films. Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery.

Christov-Bakargiev, C. (1998). William Kentridge. Brussels: Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles, pp.42-49, illustrated in colour on p.45, entitled Drawing from Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris.

Cameron, D., Christov-Bakargiev, C. and Coetzee, J.M. (1999). William Kentridge, London: Phaidon Press Limited, illustrated on p.52.

Benezra, N., Boris, S. and Cameron, D. (2001). William Kentridge. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, with Harry N. Abrams Inc, NYC , 2001 (editors Michael Sittenfeld, and Susan B. Murphy). The drawing is illustrated in full on page 87, captioned there as simply Drawing for the film Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris, 1989, cat. No. 14. On page 151 that catalogue number is listed as Soho Eating, 1989, Drawing for the film Johannesburg, 2nd greatest City after Paris.

Kentridge, M. (2015) The Soho Chronicles: 10 Films by William Kentridge. London New York Calcutta: Seagull Books, pp.121-144, illustrated on p.16.


William Kentridge: Drawings for Projection – Four Animated Films. Goodman Gallery, 21 February to 14 March 1992.

William Kentridge. Palais de Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium, 15 May to 23 August 1998; Kunstverein Munchen, Munich, Germany, 28 August to 11 October 1998; and Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria 15 November 1998 to 15 January 1999.

William Kentridge. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., 28 February to 13 May 2001; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 3 June to 16 September 2001; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 20 October to 20 January 2001; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, 1 March to 5 May 2002; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 21 July to 6 October, 2002; and South African National Gallery, Cape Town, 7 December 2002 to 23 March 2003.

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