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Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley

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Kehinde Wiley is a New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

-based portrait painter
Portrait painting
Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. Beside human beings, animals, pets and even inanimate objects can be chosen as the subject for a portrait...

, who is known for his highly naturalistic paintings of contemporary urban African, African-American, Afro-Brazilian
In Brazil, the term "preto" is one of the five categories used by the Brazilian Census, along with "branco" , "pardo" , "amarelo" and "indígena"...

, Indian
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Ethiopian-Jewish men in heroic poses.

Early life

Kehinde Wiley was born in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

 in 1977. His father is Yoruban
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 from Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, and his mother is African-American. As a child, his mother supported his interest in art and enrolled him in after school art classes, and at the age of 12, he spent a short time at an art school in Russia. Wiley did not grow up with his father, and at the age of 20 he traveled to Nigeria to explore his roots and meet him.

He earned his BFA from the
San Francisco Art Institute
San Francisco Art Institute
San Francisco Art Institute is a school of higher education in contemporary art with the main campus in the Russian Hill district of San Francisco, California. Its graduate center is in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The private, non-profit institution is accredited by WASC and is a member of the...

 in 1999 and his MFA from Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, School of Art in 2001.


Wiley's painting style has been compared to that of such traditional portraitists as Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

 and Ingres
Ingres Database is a commercially supported, open-source SQL relational database management system intended to support large commercial and government applications...

. The Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
The Columbus Museum of Art is an art museum located in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Formed in 1878 as the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, it was the first art museum to register its charter with the state of Ohio.-Building:...

, which hosted an exhibition of his work in 2007, describes his work with the following: "Kehinde Wiley has gained recent acclaim for his heroic portraits which address the image and status of young African-American men in contemporary culture."
Wiley’s paintings often blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. Rendered in a realistic mode–while making references to specific Old Master
Old Master
"Old Master" is a term for a European painter of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist. An "old master print" is an original print made by an artist in the same period...

 paintings–Wiley creates a fusion of period styles, ranging from French Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

, Islamic architecture and West African textile design to urban hip hop
Hip hop
Hip hop is a form of musical expression and artistic culture that originated in African-American and Latino communities during the 1970s in New York City, specifically the Bronx. DJ Afrika Bambaataa outlined the four pillars of hip hop culture: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti writing...

 and the "Sea Foam Green" of a Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is an American business magnate, author, magazine publisher, and television personality. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she has gained success through a variety of business ventures, encompassing publishing, broadcasting, and merchandising...

 Interiors color swatch. Wiley's slightly larger than life size figures are depicted in a heroic manner, as their poses connote power and spiritual awakening. Wiley’s portrayal of masculinity is filtered through these poses of power and spirituality.

His portraits are based on photographs of young men who Wiley sees on the street. He painted men from Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

’s 125th Street, then South Central neighborhood where he was born. Dressed in street clothes, his models were asked to assume poses from the paintings of Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 masters, such as Tiziano Vecellio and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo , also known as Gianbattista or Giambattista Tiepolo, was an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice...


The artist describes his approach as "interrogating the notion of the master painter, at once critical and complicit." Wiley’s figurative paintings "quote historical sources and position young black men within that field of power.” In this manner, Wiley’s paintings fuse history and style in a unique and contemporary manner.

Wiley is currently represented by Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, New York and Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, France.


His work is found in many public collections through the world, including the Jewish Museum
Jewish Museum
Jewish Museum may refer to:Australia* Jewish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, VictoriaAustria* Jewish Museum ViennaCzech Republic* Jewish Museum of PragueDenmark* Danish Jewish Museum, CopenhagenGeorgia...

; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is an encyclopedia art museum located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. At 560,000 square feet, the museum holds New York City's second largest art collection with roughly 1.5 million works....

; Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
The Columbus Museum of Art is an art museum located in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Formed in 1878 as the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, it was the first art museum to register its charter with the state of Ohio.-Building:...

; Kansas City Museum
Kansas City Museum
The Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall is a small museum in the historic Northeast Neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, United States. Also known as the R.A...

; Oak Park Public Library in Chicago, Illinois; Studio Museum in Harlem
Studio Museum in Harlem
The Studio Museum in Harlem is an American contemporary art museum in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, New York. It was founded in 1968 as the first such museum in the U.S. devoted to the art of African-Americans, specializing in 19th and 20th century work as well work of artists of...

 in New York, New York; High Museum of Art
High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art , located in Atlanta, is the leading art museum in the Southeastern United States and one of the most-visited art museums in the world. Located on Peachtree Street in Midtown, the city's arts district, the High is a division of the Woodruff Arts Center.-History:The Museum was...

 in Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix art museum
The Phoenix Art Museum is the Southwest United States' largest art museum for visual art. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the museum is . It displays international exhibitions alongside its comprehensive collection of more than 18,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western...

 in Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is an art museum in Los Angeles, California. It is located on Wilshire Boulevard along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile vicinity of Los Angeles, adjacent to the George C. Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits....

 in Los Angeles, California; Hammer Museum
Hammer Museum
The Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center, or the Hammer Museum as it is more commonly known, is an art museum in the Westwood district of Los Angeles, California...

, in Los Angeles, California; Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is located on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.Beginning around 1872, multiple organizations were founded in order to bring an art gallery to Milwaukee, as the city was still a growing port town with little or no facilities to hold major art exhibitions...

; Walker Art Center
Walker Art Center
The Walker Art Center is a contemporary art center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Walker is considered one of the nation's "big five" museums for modern art along with the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Hirshhorn...

 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the DIA - Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts is a renowned art museum in the city of Detroit. In 2003, the DIA ranked as the second largest municipally owned museum in the United States, with an art collection valued at more than one billion dollars...

 in Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...


Recent Exhibitions (Selection)

  • October 29, 2011-January 29, 2012: Kehinde Wiley: Selected Works at the Savannah College of Art and Design
    Savannah College of Art and Design
    SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, is a private, accredited and degree-granting university with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.-History:...

     (SCAD) Museum of Art, Savannah, GA
  • April 9-May 28, 2011: The World Stage: Israel at Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA
  • September 10-October 23, 2010: The World Stage: India, Sri Lanka at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 2010: Legends of Unity | World Cup 2010 | PUMA, several locations worldwide
  • September 3-26, 2009: Black Light at Deitch Projects
    Deitch Projects
    Deitch Projects was a contemporary art gallery in New York City founded by Jeffrey Deitch.-History:Since opening with a performance by Vanessa Beecroft in February 1996, the gallery has presented nearly one hundred and eighteen solo exhibitions and projects, ten thematic exhibitions, and a few...

    , New York, NY
  • January 15-May 3, 2009: The World Stage: Africa at ArtSpace, San Antonio, TX
  • April 5-May 9, 2009: The World Stage: Brazil at Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, CA

Recognition and honors

In October 2011, Wiley received the Artist of the Year Award from the New York City Art Teachers Association/United Federation of Teachers. He also received Canteen Magazine's Artist of the Year Award.

Two of Wiley's paintings were featured on the top of 500 New York City taxi cabs in early 2011 as a collaboration with the Art Production Fund
Art Production Fund
The Art Production Fund is a non-profit organization that presents public art around the world, run by Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen. With the help of their director of operations, Casey Freemont, APF works to help artists create large-scale, difficult-to-produce works. The corporation...


Wiley is featured in a commercial on the TV network USA as a 2010 Character Honoree.

Puma AG
Puma SE, officially branded as PUMA, is a major German multinational company that produces high-end athletic shoes, lifestyle footwear and other sportswear. Formed in 1924 as Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik by Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, relationships between the two brothers deteriorated until the two...

 commissioned Wiley to paint four portraits of prominent African football players. Patterns from his paintings were incorporated into Puma athletic gear. The complete series, Legends of Unity: World Cup 2010, was exhibited in early 2010 at Deitch Projects
Deitch Projects
Deitch Projects was a contemporary art gallery in New York City founded by Jeffrey Deitch.-History:Since opening with a performance by Vanessa Beecroft in February 1996, the gallery has presented nearly one hundred and eighteen solo exhibitions and projects, ten thematic exhibitions, and a few...

 in New York City.

His work was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery (United States)
The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in Washington, D.C., administered by the Smithsonian Institution. Its collections focus on images of famous individual Americans.-Building:...

as part of the Recognize exhibit in 2008.

External links