Dream & Discover
Discover Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of a Venetian Ambassador, Aged 59, II
Kehinde Wiley is best known for his highly stylized portraits of Black protagonists in the traditional poses and settings of Old Master paintings. Since he shot to fame in the 2000s, he has painted such celebrated figures as Barack Obama, Spike Lee and Ice-T, enjoyed solo shows around the world and seen his works sell for six-figure sums at auction. Opening in December is a major new exhibition of his landscapes at the National Gallery in London.
This painting from 2006 combines several of Wiley’s signature motifs: the self-empowered black man, a bold, brilliant colour palette and a richly patterned, floral background. The discord between the official role implied by the title and the appearance of its hip-hop loving sitter draws attention to contemporary discussions around representation and identity. ‘I believe it’s possible to hold twin desires in your head, such as the desire to create painting and destroy painting at once,’ the artist has explained. ‘The desire to look at a black American culture as underserved, in need of representation.’