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Kentridge Hits Rome

Image by Marinelli from Widely considered to be one of South Africa's most significant artists, William Kentridge has had an influence on the art world that extends far beyond the borders of the nation that bore him, and now his immeasurable talent is on display in all its glory along the banks of Rome's Tiber river. Unveiled on 21 April 2016 to mark the anniversary of the founding of Rome, the Triumphs and Laments frieze is Kentridge's largest public work to date and both the final result and the artistic method used to achieve it are remarkable.
triumphs1 Passersby stop and admire Kentridge's phenomenal figures. Image from the Triumphs and Laments Facebook page.

The colossal mural stretches across over 500 metres of the embankment wall that runs alongside the Italian capital's urban waterfront and features a sequence of more than 80 10m-high silhouetted figures that represent, as the name of the frieze suggest, all the victories and tragedies of Rome's past-to-present. These profiles were created through the process of reverse graffiti - black grime on the wall was removed using high-pressure water hoses applied to the area around huge stencils so that the dark image that remains is made up of layers of grime preserved by the stencil. In other words, these contemporary works are the result of centuries' worth of pollution build-up, and over time they'll fade and disappear into the soot again.
One of the large-scale profiles in progress. Image by Lo Rocco from One of the large-scale profiles in progress. Image by Lo Rocco from

While Triumphs and Laments is a celebration of Rome's past, it by no means offers a chronological history book-like depiction of the city's former years. Rather, Kentridge aimed to offer up fragments of history so passersby and viewers could construct their own sense of the metropolis's story - the mural in many ways therefore acknowledges how subjective any one understanding of history can be. Amazingly, the project has been 12 whole years in the making and forms part of a greater effort by non-profit initiative Tevereterno to revitalise the Tiber river through art and to transform this area into a lively public space.
Preparatory drawings in William Kentridge's studio. Preparatory drawings in William Kentridge's studio. Image from

Kentridge's expressive, evocative style, so prominent in his drawings and animated films, is immediately recognisable in the giant 'sketches', so seeing this frieze in person must be an extraordinary experience. We're certainly itching to book a ticket to Rome to view modern art in an ancient city envisioned by one of our very own greats. To find out more about the mural and the story behind it visit and watch the video below. Kentridge from ARTATTACK native adv on Vimeo.