Kehinde Wiley (born 1977) is a New York-based portrait painter, who is known for his highly naturalistic paintings of contemporary urban African, African-American, Afro-Brazilian, Indian and Ethiopian-Jewish (Beta Israel) men in heroic poses. In his 2012 exhibition, An Economy of Grace, Wiley painted women for the first time,
Why the shift to painting women in your An Economy of Grace series?
The reason why I am painting women now is in order to come to terms with depictions of gender and the way it is featured art historically–a means to broaden the conversation. Any consideration of male power in painting naturally includes the presence of women within that dialogue. “An Economy of Grace” is an investigation of the presence of women in painting, but in a broader sense, it is a investigation of the negotiation of power in image-making. For this body of work I looked to 18th and 19th-century society portraits for inspiration. At that time it was common practice for nobility to commission unique clothing for portraiture. By working with a major fashion house on this project (Givenchy), we’re revamping that tradition for the 21st century. I’ve always been a big fan of Givenchy and Riccardo Tisci’s work, so it was a wonderful opportunity to work with him.