Kehinde Wiley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Through Kehinde Wiley’s sidewalk intercession, two young Black men in jerseys, jeans, and sneakers have found their way into the sublimely decorative and heavenly realms of Titian and Tiepolo. These two works from Kehinde’s Passing/Posing series combine the traditions of Christian iconography and contemporary Black urban imagery with these singularly styled figures taking on poses reminiscent of angels and saints in Renaissance altarpieces and in later European portraits. The artist provokes ambiguity in using these disparate elements and encourages us to look at these paintings from a completely new point of view.


    Installation view of Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Musuem, New York, 2004. Image: Brooklyn Museum, New York, Artwork: ©Kehinde Wiley

    Kehinde adopts the traditions of earlier European representation in his Passing/Posing series to boldly explore the imagery of power and status over centuries of Western art. The Passing/Posing portraits confront the historical exclusion of the Black body, and it is through this confrontation that Wiley achieves his goal in making Black men visible to us today through a visual vocabulary intimately linked to qualities of prestige and privilege. Taking this exploration even further, Wiley helps us to look at the issues surrounding Black male identity and, indeed, masculinity more broadly. These portraits of young Black men question how identity is built and its intersection with the performative impulses of Passing/Posing.


    Merging the historical conventions of Western art with contemporary Black identity has been the focus of Kehinde’s career. With his first solo exhibition of the Passing/Posing series at the Brooklyn Museum in 2004, this remarkable and visionary body of work was the artist’s debut onto the international art scene. These two works from that career-making exhibition are representative of Kehinde’s extremely profound and engaging ability to create both subtle and fraught dialogues between the Western and white visual representations of position, power, and privilege and the inclusion or, perhaps imposition, of the Black male’s image and transmogrifying identity.

    • Provenance

      Deitch Projects, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Art Basel at Miami Beach/Deitch Projects, Kehinde Wiley: Faux/Real, December 3-8, 2003
      New York, Brooklyn Museum, Passing/Posing: Kehinde Wiley Paintings, October 8, 2004–February 6, 2005

    • Literature

      Kehinde Wiley, Kehinde Wiley: Passing/Posing, Paintings & Faux Chapel, New York, 2004, p. 14 (illustrated on unbound reproduction)
      Sarah Lewis, "De(i)fying the Masters," Art in America, April 2005, p. 121 (Deitch Projects, Miami, 2003 installation view illustrated)
      Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum, New York, 2015, fig. 9 (Brooklyn Museum, New York, 2004-2005 installation view illustrated, p. 23)

    • 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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Passing/Posing (Decoration of the Chapel of the Sacrament in the Cathedral of Udine, Resurrection)

signed and dated "Kehinde Wiley 03" on the reverse
oil on canvas mounted to panel
96 x 60 in. (243.8 x 152.4 cm)
Painted in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $226,800

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250
[email protected]


20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021