From the White House to the National Gallery - Barack Obama’s Portraitist Comes to London

From the White House to the National Gallery - Barack Obama’s Portraitist Comes to London
#Exhibitions

The first black artist to paint a portrait of a United States President, Kehinde Wiley didn’t stop at Barack Obama. In recent years, he has become famous for his reinterpretations of European painting traditions, substituting historical, religious and mythological figures with the faces and bodies of members of the contemporary black community, thus raising questions about power, race and identity. In his first important project with the National Gallery, Wiley takes on a new challenge - reinterpreting great landscape paintings, starting with Romanticism, in dialogue with the masterpieces of Turner, Friedrich, Claude and Vernet present in the halls of Trafalgar Square. Canvas and brushes are not the only tools utilised in his art however - the contribution of video is equally important, as seen in his first cinematographic installation. Narrenschiff - that’s the name of the work created in 2017 - draws inspiration from a commonplace theme in the European culture of the end of the XV Century, that of the “ship of fools”, to narrate the adventure of a group of black men at sea, struggling to reach land. The protagonists of the work are young Londoners that the artist chose among passersby on the streets around National Gallery. In the exhibition in the Sulley Room, the themes of migration and dislocation mix with a study of humanity’s relationship with nature, making space for epic scenes of oceans and mountains in a powerful dialogue with the sublime landscapes of the collection.
Francesca Grego - © 2021 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel London