Kehinde Wiley opened his latest exhibition An Economy of Grace at Sean Kelly Gallery last Saturday night to a crowd of adoring fans and art enthusiasts from around the world. The highly anticipated show marks the first time that Wiley has painted women, notably African-American women he cast on the streets of New York City. Based on historical portraits by masters like Jacques-Louis David, Thomas Gainsborough, and John Singer Sargent, Economy of Grace challenges society's views of feminine beauty and the place of black women in art history.
The opening was star-studded, if not only by his family's arrival in a limo, musician Santigold (whose Master of My Make-Believe album cover he collaborated on), fellow painter Rosson Crow, and photographer Patrick McMullen. The larger-than-life paintings stunned viewers in their intense detail and quality, placing Wiley in a realm of the greats that have come before him.
While the event felt glamorous and momentous in every way, it was also being filmed for an ongoing documentary with award-winning filmmaker Jeff Dupre. The moment of An Economy of Grace marks Wiley's decisive move into exploring femininity, brought to wider attention through collaborating on the dress design with Givenchy creative director, Riccardo Tisci. In his own words, "I am painting women in order to come to terms with the depictions of gender within the context of art history. One has to broaden the conversation."
Visit Economy of Grace at Sean Kelly Gallery now through June 16, 2012 (528 West 29th Street, NYC).