Kehinde Wiley
American painter



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Kehinde Wiley
American painter
Average: 5 (4 votes)

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For countless people who would have never become famous, Kehinde Wiley not only gives them their 15 minutes of fame, he lets them live forever.

Hailing from South Central LA, Wiley may have come a long way from his roots in the hood, but he has never lost sight of them. Like the countless who have come before him, Wiley is obsessed with portraiture. But unlike the masters that have preceded him, he does one thing distinctly different: he paints people of color.  

Wiley grew up attending all the best museums Los Angeles has to offer. Wandering around LACMA in particular, Wiley noticed from a young age something members of the art world have conveniently ignored for a while: there are practically no people of color on the walls of our museums! Ever since, Wiley has been a man on a mission.

Wiley tackles issues around race, sociopolitical power, and the limited scope of art history. He describes what he does as “intervention”, and that he “quotes historical sources and positions young black men within the field of power.” So he is pretty much rewriting white history with black men and women, hey, whatever brings diversity into the art world is okay by me.

“If black lives matter, they deserve to be in paintings” Wiley once said, and the people seem to agree. Since Wiley hit the art world, he has become one of the wealthiest living artists and is arguably the most successful black artist since Basquiat. People love Wiley, but not just for his paintings. He has a bombastic personality and a killer sense of style to say the least. He has been known to rock zebra print suits from time to time.

He also has a pretty interesting way of recruiting his models. When it's time to make a new painting, Wiley takes to the streets of Harlem and looks for someone who exudes an air of the alpha male. He always brings a lady along with him though so the men he approaches do not end up feeling as though Wiley has some homoerotic ulterior motives. Additionally, he keeps a wedding ring on his left hand (even though he is single), to add to this illusion that there is no funny business going on. He then asks his models to chose a picture from books on Old Master paintings and pose in the same position for a photo. The rest is history, or well, however Wiley chooses to rewrite it.    


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley (born February 28, 1977) is a Nigerian-American portrait painter based in New York City, who is known for his highly naturalistic paintings of black people. He was commissioned in 2017 to paint a portrait of former President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which has portraits of all the US presidents. The Columbus Museum of Art, which hosted an exhibition of his work in 2007, describes his work as follows: "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 portrait of Obama was unveiled on February 12, 2018. He and Amy Sherald, whose portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama was simultaneously unveiled, are the first black artists to paint official portraits of the president or First Lady for the National Portrait Gallery.

Some observers criticized the selection of Wiley for the commission because he had earlier produced two painting variations of Judith Beheading Holofernes, in which he depicts African-American women holding the severed heads of white women. Wiley said that this is a "play on the 'kill whitey' thing".

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Kehinde Wiley.

Comments (2)


One of the most fun and vibrant living artists. You have to see his stuff in person to appreciate the scale of some of his pieces. Plus he has a compound in Senegal, so extra points for that. And, like Sartle editors Angelica and Tania, he went to San Francisco Art institute, so additional points. I dislike most art from living artists, but I his stuff.


Kehinde gets it. God gave us colors and giant canvases, so we should use them to maximum effect. I have never seen a Kehinde Wiley painting that failed to inspire me. Everything he paints is awesome. Five stars.