Kehinde Wiley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Strikingly opulent, Passing/ Posing (Female Prophet Anne, Samuel's Mother) No. 2, 2004, emulates power and grandeur. The painting is part of Kehinde Wiley’s sought-after Passing/ Posing series (2001-2004) which the artist began during his residence at the Harlem Studio museum in 2001. A rococo-style gilded gold frame surrounds the portrait of a self-entitled young man proudly and defiantly standing at the centre of the work. The ochre coloured background surrounding 'the prophet' is ornamented with the fleur de lys symbol, repeated in a regular pattern in a monogrammed manner. The pattern is evocative of designer branding where the designer’s initials are repeated on the surface of handbags and other wearables commonly seen in contemporary hip-hop culture. In using a symbol historically imbued with the French royal family and which traditionally symbolises 'the father, the son and the holy spirit' Wiley imbues the work with both royal and religious status. The protagonist’s gaze is intensely directed at the viewer in a challenging manner. His right hand is tightly holding the yellow puffer jacket at this chest whilst his left hand’s index finger is firmly pointing to the floor, alluding to the religious iconography reflected in the work’s title. 


    Through his reinterpretation of old master paintings Kehinde Wiley carves out a place for minorities traditionally underrepresented within the artistic realm. Indeed, as a young child when visiting the museums of Los Angeles during his school’s art program, he never saw anyone 'that looked like him' upon the institution walls. The imposing establishment solely displayed portraits of powerful white noblemen, aristocrats, and warriors celebrated for their achievements in an almost godly manner. Through the Passing/Posing series Wiley challenges and comments upon these disparities by replacing the heroes, prophets, and saints seen in old master paintings with young coloured men in streetwear. The posers were not selected for their achievements but casually plucked off the streets of New York. The chosen would join the artist at his studio to be photographed in their portrait, allowing Wiley to choose and claims authority of who deserves to be painted and hung on the museum walls. 


    In 2014, Kehinde Wiley discusses his work, inspiration and his reinvention of renaissance paintings. Since then, in 2018, the artist was commissioned to paint Barack Obama.

    • Provenance

      The Proposition, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, The Proposition, Glory, Glamour & Gold, 14 September - 30 October 2004

    • 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 (Female Prophet Anne, Samuel's Mother) No. 2

oil on canvas, in artist's frame
218.4 x 182.9 cm (85 7/8 x 72 in.)
Painted in 2004.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £100,800

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Director

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 21 October 2020