Nigeria’s Kehinde Wiley, will paint the official presidential portrait of former U.S president Barack Obama
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery while making the announcement said Wiley is an exciting choice for the presidential portrait.
Wiley, a hip-hop portraitist is known for lush, larger-than-life portraits that overlay black street culture with European classical motifs. The 40 year-old New York-based artist, born to a Nigerian father and an African American mother, will have a novel spin on the traditionally formal composition.
Wiley has painted rappers LL Cool J in the style of John Singer Sargent, Ice T as Emperor Napoleon by David and young African American men in stained glass tableaus, like saints in a cathedral.
The background of his paintings reference African cloth patterns, snaking through the composition to give further clues on his subject. The Obamas’s portraits, which will surely draw selfie enthusiasts, will be unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC next year.
Wiley was born in Los Angeles, California in 1977. His father is Ibibio from Akwa Ibom State. As a child, his mother supported his interest in art and enrolled him in after-school art classes. At the age of 12, he spent a short time at an art school in Russia. Wiley did not grow up with his father, and at the age of 20 traveled to Nigeria to explore his roots and meet him. Wiley earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale University, School of Art in 2001.