Kehinde Wiley - New Now London Thursday, April 28, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Art history is a heavy burden to carry on your shoulders and as opposed to running away from that burden, I turn that burden into the subject of my work.' —Kehinde Wiley

    Painted in 2014, Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Henri, Duc d'Orleans is a striking and majestic portrait by American artist Kehinde Wiley, best known for his photorealist reimaging of everyday Black figures adopting the poses and attitudes struck by the historical subjects of classical European portraiture. Maintaining certain visual cues borrowed from these Old Master paintings, Wiley draws attention to the language of power and dominance that they operate within, subverting these structures and hierarchies by placing the contemporary Black and diasporic body centre stage.

     

    Dressed in contemporary athletic clothing referencing the Senegalese basketball team AS Forces Armées, the subject of Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Henri, Duc d'Orleans strikes a confident, self-assured pose. With one hand positioned on his hip, straightened shoulders and head inclined slightly to one side, the model assumes the powerful stance of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ portraits of Ferdinand-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans. 
      

    Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Ferdinand-Philippe (1810-42) Duke of Orleans in the Park at Saint-Cloud, 1843.

    The son of the future King Louis Philippe I, Ferdinand-Philippe was closely involved in the French colonial project and would be a prominent player in the invasion and occupation of Algiers in the 1830s. The careful juxtaposition of contemporary athletic wear and the military uniform of a colonial ruling power sharply highlights the erasure of Black figures and their stories from these historical narratives, and of the role traditionally played by portraiture in visually enforcing these power relations. As the artist has described: ‘So much of these portraits are about fashioning oneself into the image of perfection that ruled the day in the 18th and 19th centuries. […] My paintings at their best take that vocabulary and attempt to transpose that into a form that gives respect not only to the history of painting but also to those people who look and sound like me.’i

     

    While Ingres’ portraits of Ferdinand-Philippe use lavish interiors or carefully cultivated landscapes to reinforce the visual language of power and dominance, Wiley here adopts a bright and highly decorative repeated thistle motif. At once recalling the patterned furnishings of Arts & Crafts pioneer William Morris and African textiles, Wiley’s ornate background powerfully evokes a vibrant clash of cultures and draws certain comparisons between the historical marginalisation of the decorative arts and that of non-European peoples. Drawing on the visual displays of power, wealth, and privilege codified through a history of portraiture, Wiley instead focusses on these overlooked elements, ensuring that ‘what has been marginalised comes to occupy the very centre of the painting.’ii

     

    Working on a basis of ‘street-casting’, Wiley selects his subjects by sight, showing them pictures of his work and inviting them to collaborate on the project. After selecting Old Master portraits as specific reference points, Wiley poses his subjects for studio photographs, which he then uses as the source image for his lavish and strikingly collaborative portraits. As Wiley has commented, ‘we love looking at ourselves, when we stare at those portraits, sure, we see other people in states of grace, but we also see ourselves imagined. There is implied in this act of looking a type of exchange, a recognition that if someone else can be seen in such a state of esteem, it presupposes a state for our own.’iii

     

    Currently the focus of an important exhibition in London’s National Gallery, examples of Wiley’s work can be found in major institutions worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina. In 2017 Wiley was commissioned to paint Barack Obama’s presential portrait, which now resides in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

     

    Kehinde Wiley discusses the relationship of his work to art historical tradition and the importance of posing today. 

     

    i Kehinde Wiley, quoted in Anne Louise Berman, ‘Oral history interview with Kehinde Wiley’, Washington, 2010, online
    ii Kehinde Wiley, quoted in Natasha Kurchanova, ‘Kehinde Wiley: “I think ideas are just as important as the material practice of painting,”’ Studio International, 27 February 2015, online
    iii Kehinde Wiley, ‘The Language of Power: Kehinde Wiley interviewed by Jérôme Sans’, in Kehinde Wiley and Jérôme Sans, Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage: France 1880–1960, (exh. cat.), Galerie Daniel Templon, 2015, p. 12.

    • Provenance

      Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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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10

Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Henri, Duc d'Orléans

signed and dated 'Kehinde Wiley 2014' on the reverse
oil on linen, in artist's frame
239 x 185.7 cm (94 1/8 x 73 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £289,800

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now
+44 20 7901 7993
[email protected]

New Now

London Auction 28 April 2022