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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Kehinde Wiley at the National Gallery: The Prelude


National Gallery / London / Art

You know about the Obama Portraits Tour, which launched in Chicago and is traveling through U.S. cities. And you’ve seen the exhibition’s central portrait of Barack Obama, seated in front of an Edenic wall of green leaves and gazing from the canvas with majesty. That painting is by Kehinde Wiley, the first Black man in history to paint a U.S. presidential portrait. Wiley’s artistic strategy? He recreates Old Master paintings, applying European styles to subjects of color. “Art is about changing what we see in our everyday lives,” he has said, “and representing it in such a way that it gives us hope.” At the National Gallery, Wiley looks at European Romanticism, its scenes of oceans and mountains. As he recently told Town & Country magazine, this is also his “first time launching a six-screen film. It’s an immersive experience shot in the fjords of Norway, creating this weird juxtaposition between Black skin and sheer white mountaintops in little blizzards and storms. It’s heartbreakingly, gorgeous stuff.” —E.C.

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