Kehinde Wiley - AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN New York Friday, February 8, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1977, Los Angeles, CA
    Lives and works in New York, NY

    2001 MFA, Yale University, School of Art, New Haven, CT
    1999 BFA, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA

    Selected honors: US State Department Medal of Arts (2015); The Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award for Artistic Achievement (2014); Cultural Leadership Award, American Federation of Arts (2013); Americans for the Arts, Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence (2008)
    Selected museum exhibitions: The Brooklyn Museum, New York; Phoenix Art Museum; The Jewish Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
    Selected public collections: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Denver Art Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Seattle Art Museum and many private collections

    Kehinde Wiley made history in 2018. Having gained international acclaim for his portraits of African Americans over the past 15 years, Wiley became the first black artist to paint the official presidential portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The unveiling of his portrait of former president Barack Obama in February 2018 was followed shortly after by the momentous announcement that he was named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Hip hop artist LL Cool J penned Wiley’s profile, lauding 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. When you see a Kehinde Wiley painting, you recognize it. He has created a visual brand that remains artistically fresh. And his many paintings in the Smithsonian—including one of me and one of former President Obama—speak to his creative genius.”

    The large-scale portrait Jean de Carodelet belongs to Wiley’s series Passing/Posing that featured prominently in his breakthrough museum exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2004. As art historian and curator Sarah Lewis wrote in her Art in America feature “De(i)fying the Masters”: “the artist renders casually dressed African-American men standing in the postures of prophets, saints and angels from Renaissance paintings, or of male subjects from later European portraits. Wiley thus inserts black males into a painting tradition that has typically omitted them or relegated them to peripheral positions. At the same time, he critiques contemporary portrayals of black masculinity itself…the first room contained the foundational elements of Wiley’s portraits: four framed photographs of his models posing, a selection of books on European portraiture and Renaissance painting, and a single portrait, Jean de Carondelet (2004), accompanied by a thumbnail reproduction of its identically titled source painting, a ca. 1530 work by Jan Cornelisz in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.”

    While Wiley has now become widely known for his portrait of Barack Obama, his models largely consist of African American men Wiley encountered on the streets of Harlem. Approaching them with images of his work, Wiley asks permission to make a portrait of them in his studio. “They’re assuming the poses of colonial masters, the former bosses of the Old World,” Wiley explains, “Whenever I do photo shoots for paintings, I pull out a stack of books, whether it be something from the High Renaissance or the late French Rococo or the 19th century, it’s all thrown together in one big jumble. I take the figure out of its original environment and place it in something completely made up.”

    Dressed in everyday clothing, Wiley’s larger-than-life figures blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. His portraits force a critical consideration of the codified portrayal of black masculinity, a deeply personal concern for Wiley. A contemporary descendent of such Old Master portraitists as Velázquez, Holbein, Titian and Ingres, Wiley engages the visual rhetoric of the heroic and majestic to explore pressing issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality, in the process correcting the lack of black figures in the canon of art history.


Passing/Posing, Jean de Carodelet

signed "Kehinde Wiley 04" on the reverse
oil and enamel on canvas, in artist's frame
96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm.)
Executed in 2004.

Estimate On Request


New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019