In Naples, Kentridge's animated Sibyls in dialogue with the Sibyls of the Cona dei Lani


The Charterhouse and the San Martino Museum in Naples present a dialogue between the Sibyls of William Kebtridge's video installation and the Sibyls of the Cona dei Lani.

From Nov. 14, 2021, to Feb. 13, 2022, the Charterhouse and Museum of San Martino in Naples will host the exhibition Waiting for the Sibyl, the art project resulting from the collaboration between the Campania Regional Museums Directorate and the Lia Rumma Gallery that features William Kentridge ’s film Sybil in dialogue with the Sibyls of the Cona dei Lani.

Set up inside the Spezieria, the South African artist’s video installation, presented in May 2020 in the Milan branch of the Lia Rumma Gallery in the solo exhibition Waiting for the Sibyl and other histories, after the world premiere of the theatrical work Waiting for the Sibyl at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, will dialogue with the famous Sibyls. Inspired by the movement and rotation of Calder’s works, Kentridge evokes in this work the figure of the Sibyl, the priestess who transcribed oracles on oak leaves.

The video Sibyl is a sequence of ink or charcoal drawings that come alive in the pages of a flipbook: here the contemporary Sibyl is imagined as a moving African dancer, accompanied by the vocal compositions of musician and choreographer Nhlanhla Mhalangu. Against the backdrop of pages of old books, including ancient editions of the Divine Comedy, ink sketches trees with black branches and leaves that break up and shuffle like the Sibyl’s vaticini.

Over the centuries, Sibyls have undergone a remarkable evolution: from legendary figures capable of foretelling natural events and calamities, they did not lose their function after the advent of Christianity; like the prophets, in fact, they announce at the coming of Christ. An example of this change is the new exhibition section of the Museo di San Martino dedicated to the Cona dei Lani, located in front of the Spezieria, recently inaugurated after a long and complex restoration and musealization work, which, while not attempting the integral recomposition of the Cona that decorated the destroyed Cappella dei Lani in the church of Sant’Eligio al Mercato, presents the Sibyls as eloquent prophetic figures within a sacred monumental complex. The Cona dei Lani can be considered the most impressive polychrome fictile complex of the Southern Renaissance; having lost its original location forever, it is being returned to the public through restoration and musealization.

Image: from William Kentridge, Sibyl (2020)

In Naples, Kentridge's animated Sibyls in dialogue with the Sibyls of the Cona dei Lani
In Naples, Kentridge's animated Sibyls in dialogue with the Sibyls of the Cona dei Lani


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