Kehinde Wiley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Simon Watson Arts, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Brooklyn Museum, Passing Posing: Kehinde Wiley Paintings, 8 October 2004 - 5 February 2005

  • Literature

    Sarah Lewis, 'De(i)fying the Masters', Art in America, 1 April 2005, online

  • Catalogue Essay

    A striking and colourful canvas, Passing/Posing (Jean de Carondelet), 2004, belongs to Kehinde Wiley’s ebullient series of large-scale portraits which featured in the artist’s breakthrough exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, 2004. Dressed in everyday clothing, Wiley’s larger-than-life figures blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation, forcing a critical consideration of the codified portrayal of black masculinity. Largely consisting of African American men encountered on the streets of Harlem, the artist's models ‘assume the poses of colonial masters, the former bosses of the Old World’ (Kehinde Wiley, quoted in, echoing Thomas Gainsborough's esteemed corpus of portraiture. In the present work, the protagonist's enlivened hands replicate the idiosyncratic gesture presented in Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen’s portrait of Jean de Carondelet – the titular Burgundian politician who advised Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the turn of the 15th century. Notably, the latter painting is held in the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, the same institution that showcased Passing/Posing (Jean de Carondelet) in Wiley’s seminal exhibition of 2004.

    Having gained international acclaim for his portraits of African Americans over the past 15 years, Wiley made history in 2018 as he became the first black artist to paint the official presidential portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington. The unveiling of Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama in February 2018 was followed by his momentous nomination as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Hip hop artist LL Cool J, lauded him as a ‘classically, formally trained artist who is transforming the way African Americans are seen—going against the grain of what the world is accustomed to. Kehinde has an MFA from Yale, but instead of using his art to assimilate into mainstream society, he goes minorstream, creating major works that outpace that of the majority of his contemporaries […] And his many paintings in the Smithsonian speak to his creative genius’ (LL Cool J, ‘Kehinde Wiley: The Iconoclast’, TIME, 18 April 2018, online). A contemporary descendent of such Old Master portraitists as Velázquez, Holbein, Titian and Ingres, Wiley engages the visual rhetoric of heroism to explore pressing issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality, highlighting the absence of black voices in the canon of art history.

  • Artist Biography

    Kehinde Wiley

    Applying the language and devices of royal portraiture to unnamed archetypes of the Black American experience, Kehinde Wiley bestows the pride and prestige of history painting to groups that it has too often overlooked. Rather than depicting the European aristocracy, Wiley’s portraits d’apparats place African Americans against florid backdrops and atop rearing horses, retaining the pomp and opulence of his historical antecedents and situating Black men and women dressed in everyday clothing as the subjects of art historical aggrandization. Often the accoutrements of urban life lend themselves quite readily to historical genres of portraiture; Air Jordans and Timberland boots can be as appropriate to monarchist might as emerald and ermine. Wiley’s goal is twofold: by subverting outmoded forms of expression through the substitution of the sitter, the artist criticizes the historical neglect of adequate Black representation and glorifies undeservingly maligned representatives of modern American life, what he calls “the ability to create painting and destroy painting at once.”

    Wiley’s work has been the subject of universal acclaim. His work can be found in the collections of major institutions across the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Wiley was also selected in 2017 to paint the official portrait of President Barack Obama, the first Black artist to be given such an honor. Recently, Wiley founded Black Rock, an artist residency in Dakar, Senegal, bringing an important artistic resource to the African continent.

    View More Works


Passing/Posing, Jean de Carondelet

signed 'Kehinde Wiley 04' on the reverse
oil and enamel on canvas, in artist's frame
270.5 x 209.6 cm (106 1/2 x 82 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2004.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £100,000

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019