Kehinde Wiley - Unbound: Online Auction New York Monday, October 21, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Many people see my early work simply as portraits of black and brown people. Really, it's an investigation of how we see those people and how they have been perceived over time.” Kehinde Wiley

    The present lot, an early piece created the year Kehinde Wiley received his MFA from the Yale School of Art stands as precursor to what would become his iconic classical portraits. The poses he selects for his full length portraits are extracted from famous art historical paintings by artists such as Jacques-Louis David, Frans Hal, Diego Rodriguez Veláquez and Theodore Gericault. Wiley also gleans figurative poses from classical sculpture, selecting figures in dramatic poses or in a direct state of contemplation. The present lot illustrates a young women seated in a vast and dry desert like environment, reflecting Wiley’s current West coasts surroundings. Though nude, our seated figure still confronts the viewer with her direct gaze which conjures the visual brilliance of Édouard Manet’s illustrious painting Olympia, 1863. The pose of her body calls to minds the depiction of women in a reclining state often found in the mosaic imagery of ancient Greece and Rome. Hailing from Greek mythology the Naiade Nymphs of river, marshes and streams are often seen lounging, resting on one arm amidst an outdoor scene. Though early in his magnificent artist career the present lot anticipates Wiley’s continuous art historical investigation into the poignant portal of mankind. The artist ponders, “What is portraiture? It's choice. It's the ability to position your body in the world for the world to celebrate you on your own terms.”

  • 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.

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signed and dated "Kehinde Wiley 01" lower right; further signed and dated "Kehinde Wiley 2001" on the reverse
oil on canvas
30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 2001.

$30,000 - 50,000 

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Unbound: Online Auction

Online 21 - 30 October 2019 | Bidding closes October 30th, 2pm EDT