Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude
December 10, 2021 - April 18, 2022
The National Gallery:
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Perhaps best known for painting Barack Obama’s presidential portrait and becoming the first Black artist to do so, Kehinde Wiley’s richly detailed canvases often render people of color in the traditional settings of the Old Masters. Here, he shifts his focus to the epic scenes of oceans and mountains typical of European Romanticism. One of the exhibition’s most ambitious works, a six-channel film shot in Haiti and Norway, explores notions of the sublime by positioning Black Londoners in stark glacial settings, overwhelmed yet unbroken by the surrounding whiteness. Another replaces the lone climber from Caspar David Friedrich’s seminal Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog with a young man from Dakar sporting cornrows. As part quotation and part intervention, each continues to raise questions about power, privilege, and identity, highlighting the absence of Black figures within the western art historical canon. 

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