Artist Kehinde Wiley had an exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art a few years ago where he depicted people he found on the Eastside of Columbus in a Baroque setting.
GQ interviewed Mr. Wiley for their April issue.
Kehinde Wiley on what his portrait work offers his subjects: The history of art, Wiley argues, has ignored brown faces, consigning them to tiny parts in the backgrounds: slaves, footmen, fallen combatants. Wiley is aiming to give them their aesthetic due, country by country. “Andy Warhol said that we would all have our fifteen minutes,” Wiley has said, with pugilistic bravado. “F*ck the fifteen minutes. I’m going to give you a painting, and I’ll make you live forever.” A self-styled Noah in this biblical epic, Wiley has been called by calamity—the world’s museums, flooded with whiteness—to bring the art world a salvational brownness. It’s an argument he’s bet his career on. It’s an argument he’s winning.
…on having ignored calls from Michael Jackson for a long time regarding a commission: “I ignored him, because quite honestly I thought it was a prank. Surprisingly, he was really knowledgeable about art and art history.”
GQ’s Wyatt Mason on how Wiley finds his subjects: [Wiley] draws the majority of his subjects from the streets, soliciting the interest of strangers in becoming paintings. That practice began in earnest in Harlem when Wiley was just out of Yale. He received a yearlong residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The neighborhood was filled with faces and bodies that spoke to Wiley, and so he talked to them, inviting them back to his studio, where he posed them, shot them, and painted them—the personal process that he’s since expand to global scale.