Kehinde Wiley Hidden Project: Painting African Leaders

Kehinde Wiley Hidden Project. In the world of art, important and wealthy people often show off their status through special pictures called portraits. This happens a lot in Western art, especially when European countries took over lands and people. But what about the people who were taken over? Kehinde Wiley, who became famous for painting a picture of the former US President Barack Obama, is now asking this question in his new collection called “A Maze of Power.” It’s a secret project that took him ten years and includes portraits of leaders from Africa.

About Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley born in Los Angeles and now lives in Senegal, Nigeria, and New York. People know him most for his picture of Barack Obama in 2018. This new collection, “A Maze of Power,” kept a secret until recently. It has 11 paintings, and you can see them at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, France.

What the Collection is About

Wiley started this project around the time Barack Obama became president in 2008. He had the idea to paint pictures of Black presidents and spent ten years traveling around Africa to paint its current and past leaders. This exhibition wants to talk about power today by using an old style of painting from Europe, from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Exploring Power through Art

The pictures in Wiley’s collection look like old European paintings, and they talk about power today. In a video with the exhibition, Wiley thinks about whether he can use an old style of painting in Africa and make something new. The answer is yes and no, balancing old traditions with new ideas.

Subjects and Settings

Wiley visited many African countries for this project, like Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ethiopia, Togo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each leader wore what they liked for the pictures. Wiley showed them pictures from a long time ago to help them decide how they wanted to be shown.

Real and Imagined

The exhibition looks at the real and imagined parts in the pictures. Leaders made choices about how they wanted to be shown, and Wiley made artistic choices too. Some leaders brought things they liked, like horses. But the backgrounds in the pictures were mostly made up by the artist. This shows how reality and art can work together.

Title: “A Maze of Power”

The name of the exhibition, “A Maze of Power,” means a tricky journey for both the artist and the leaders. It shows how difficult it is to capture and understand power through pictures. Wiley talks about how both he and the leaders decide what the pictures mean.

Presidents, Not Politics

When Wiley took the pictures, he didn’t talk to the leaders about political things. He wanted to focus on capturing who they are without getting into politics. Even if some leaders are not seen as great, the collection wants to make people think differently about them.

In summary, Kehinde Wiley’s secret project, “A Maze of Power,” shows portraits of African leaders. The exhibition mixes old and new styles, letting leaders choose how they want to be shown. It aims to make people think differently about power and pictures.