William Kentridge Slams European Leaders for Being Greedy and Selfish

by Henri Neuendorf, Tuesday, May 17, 2016 originally published at https://news.artnet.com

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William Kentridge Photo: Marc Shoul, courtesy of Berliner Festspiele

The South African artist William Kentridge is the latest art world figure to criticize Europe’s refugee policy after he delivered a scathing condemnation of the migrant crisis.

Speaking to the German art and culture publication Art Magazin ahead of the opening of his museum survey at Berlin’s Martin Gropius Bau, the artist took a moment to address the hypocrisy of the European political elite.

“For 300 years Europe took everything it could get from its colonies and is directly responsible for the structures of these countries,” Kentridge said. “And now that these people knock on Europe’s door, it shuts down and behaves as if it were generous to let in a tiny, tiny part of this population to whom it inflicted such damage. It is not as if the population of Europe will suddenly grow by 20 or 30 percent, it is about a fraction of a percent. From the outside it looks like incredible greed and selfishness.”

Kentridge joins a growing list of prominent artists who have spoken out against the ham-fisted handling of the migrant crisis.

Ai Weiwei has been one of the most vocal critics of European policy toward migrants and refugees. The Chinese artist has visited refugee camps in Lesbos and Idomeni in Greece to highlight the plight of displaced people.

Anish Kapoor organized a petition signed by leading British actors, musicians, and other cultural luminaries to urge the UK government to act on the European refugee crisis. He even bought a full-page advertisement in the Guardian to bring attention to the cause.

Ai Weiwei visits the Idomeni refugee camp, on the border of Greece and Macedonia, on March 11, 2016. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.
Ai Weiwei visits the Idomeni refugee camp, on the border of Greece and Macedonia, on March 11, 2016. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Olafur Eliasson has also spoken out against the European Union’s inadequate response. He organized a participation-based arts project in Vienna which was meant to eliminate hierarchies between the hosts and the refugees being hosted.

Meanwhile, the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is addressing the ongoing European migrant crisis at his Berlin-based project space, Between Bridges, which will host talks events and exhibitions regarding the humanitarian crisis until further notice.

Kentridge was in Berlin promoting his three shows in the city, at Martin Gropius Bau, Kewenig Galerie, and a lecture-performance taking place from July 5 -17 as part of the Foreign Affairs festival.

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