Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) is an artist known for his naturalistic paintings of black people. 

Wiley was born in Los Angles, California, to a Nigerian father and African American mother. Wiley took an interest in art when his mother enrolled him in after-school art classes. At age 11, Wiley attended an art exchange program in Russia. In 1999, Wiley earned a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and in 2001 earned a MFA from Yale University.

Wiley is best known for creating heroic portraits of young African American men whom Wiley encountered on the streets. His first solo exhibition, Passing/Posing, was shown in 2002 at the Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, IL.  In 2005, his popularity increased when VH1 commissioned Wiley to paint portraits of all the 2005 VH1 Hip-Hop Honors honorees.

Mixed media painting of Craig Fletcher based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Saint John the Baptist.

Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977)

Saint John The Baptist, 2014

From the series Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic

22k gold leaf and oil paint on wood panel with metal

H x W x D (overall- framed): 40 × 24 × 4 1/8 in. (101.6 × 61 × 10.5 cm)


Gift of The Martin Z. Margulies Foundation, Miami, FL, © Kehinde Wiley

In 2017, the National Portrait Gallery announced that Wiley and fellow visual artist Amy Sherald had been chosen to paint official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Wiley's portrait of President Barack Obama was unveiled in February 2018.

Wiley currently resides in New York and Beijing, China. In 2014, Wiley founded Black Rock Senegal, a multi-disciplinary residency program for visual artists, writers, and filmmakers. Wiley is private about his personal life but identifies as a gay man publicly. His work Saint John the Baptist in NMAAHC’s collection features his partner, Craig Fletcher.

View objects relating to Kehinde Wiley

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