Kehinde Wiley Reimagines Historic Paintings With Everyday Black Men And Women

The incredibly talented, Kehinde Wiley, a New York-based portrait painter creates incredibly naturalistic paintings of everyday black men and women in reimagined paintings by old masters – such as Tiziano Vecellio and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

By replacing the typical European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, Wiley is able to draw attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives and raise questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation.


The subjects in Wiley’s paintings often wear sneakers, hoodies, and baseball caps – gear associated with hip-hop culture – and are set against contrasting ornate decorative backgrounds that evoke earlier eras and a range of cultures.

Through the process of street casting, Wiley invites individuals – often strangers he meets on the street – to sit for portraits. In this collaborative process, the model chooses a reproduction of a painting from a book and reenacts the pose of the painting’s figure.

Kehinde Wiley's A New Republic exhibition will run from October 7 to January 8 at the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona. For more information on his work and his exhibitions, visit his website or his Instagram.

A photo posted by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on

A photo posted by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on


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