Kehinde Wiley – Nation Portrait Gallery

Kehinde Wiley is an American portrait painter, artist and founder of multidisciplinary artist-in-residence program Black Rock Senegal. He is well known for his highly naturalistic paintings of Black people, positioned in the framework of Old Master paintings. The imagery he produces encourages the audience to ponder on ideations of power, privilege, identity, and the consignment or lack thereof Black figures within European art.

In 2017 he was commissioned to paint a portrait of former President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, where portraits of all previous American presidents are held. He became the first Black artist to paint an official portrait of a president of the United States.

Wiley has been featured in other prominent international institutions such as Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; Studio Museum, Harlem; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; The Zabludowicz Collection, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, England.

In this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, will be Wiley’s first collaboration with a major UK gallery. the focus shifts from one European tradition – Grand Manner portraiture – to another – landscape painting.  Through new artworks, including film and painting, Wiley will look at European Romanticism and its focus on epic scenes of oceans and mountains, building relationships with our collection of historical landscapes and seascapes by Turner, Claude, Vernet and Friedrich. 

The queue for entry tailed both sides of the main gallery entrance, whilst hoards of anticipating viewers huddled eagerly outside the Sunley Room. A warm lull encapsulated those who remained fool-gazed and practically immobilised underneath the shear magnitude, detail and intensity of Kehinde’s oil on linen canvases.

Have a look at some of the portraits below.

In Search of the Miraculous (Zakary Antoine and Jasmine Gracout), 2021

Prelude (Babacar Mané), 2021 (oil on linen) by Kehinde Wiley. Photograph: © Kehinde Wiley.

The Prelude
Until 18 April 2022
Sunley Room


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