NGV Triennial

Fred Wilson
To die upon a kiss



Fred Wilson Interview

Explore Fred Wilson To die upon a kiss Virtually

To die upon a kiss 2011 is the second of a trilogy of Murano glass chandeliers created by Fred Wilson to examine the history and presence of Africans in Venice. Into the ornate forms of 17th century Venetian chandeliers, the artist introduced unexpected emotions and narratives. Through its title, this work evokes a transformative process, which is drawn from Shakespeare’s Othello. In its gradation of colour, with the deep black at the bottom transitioning to an ethereal clear at the top, the artist references a dissolution of the body in death.

In Wilson’s words: ‘When looking at To die upon a kiss as a completed artwork, I saw my father’s life force in the blackness of the chandelier, draining down from the body as his spirit rose out. My father’s peaceful death occurred around the time of the artwork’s creation. Equally about Othello and my father, it is also about beauty and its uplifting, rejuvenating ability in times of sadness and remembrance. As a makeshift morgue sits outside the hospital near my home, this current pandemic is leaving a long solemn shadow. I believe intelligent thought, words, and images (and light!) matter in helping us make it through the gloom.’

Fred Wilson’s installation Speak of Me as I Am 2003, an exhibition on the history of Africans in Venice presented at the 50th Biennale di Venezia, featured the artist’s first works in Murano glass. Since this time, he has continued to work with glass as vehicles for his meditations on blackness, beauty, and death.

Wilson’s work is held in major public collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Tate, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Long Museum, Shanghai, among numerous others. The artist’s many accolades include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant (1999); the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2006); the Alain Locke Award from The Friends of African and African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts (2013); and a Lifetime Achievement Award, Howard University, Washington D.C. (2017). Wilson was honoured by The Black Alumni of Pratt Institute during their 2017 Celebration of the Creative Spirit.

Generously supported by the Professor AGL Shaw AO Bequest.