New York-based painter Kehinde Wiley‘s current exhibit Kehinde Wiley: Memling at the Phoenix Art Museum is attracting national attention, most recently via a mention in Time Magazine’s ‘Pop Chart’ in the March 18 issue. Wiley’s eight portraits take their poses and contexts from the works by the legendary 15th century Flemish master Hans Memling but Wiley has substituted contemporary sitters for the historical figures.
A portrait of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by artists Yuki Wang. (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)
What does Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. have in common with explorer Amerigo Vespucci, poet Allen Ginsberg , and actress Mary Pickford? They’re all new on the wall at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. In an e-mail to friends and supporters, Gates called the unveiling of his portrait “one of the most exciting moments of my life.” The oil painting, done by artist Yuqi Wang, shows Gates standing beside a table with an African sculpture and books by W. E. B. Du Bois, Wole Soyinka, and Kwame Anthony Appiah on it. “The perfect portrait for the National Portrait Gallery is one that combines a nationally significant subject and the work of an exceptional artist,” Brandon Fortune, the Portrait Gallery’s chief curator, told us Monday. She said the painting was commissioned by Harvard and then offered to the Portrait Gallery. “It’s a long, drawn out process when we consider a portrait of someone who has not previously been in our collection,” Fortune said.