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Kehinde Wiley in A Maze of Power

Sean Kelly is delighted to announce the opening of Kehinde Wiley's A Maze of Power at The Musée des Civilisations Noires (Museum of Black Civilisations) in Dakar, Sénégal. The exhibition presents a series of eleven portraits of African heads of state,  an exploratory project around the representation of power. This body of work was first exhibited at the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris in September 2023.

During the first Black presidency in the United States, Kehinde Wiley, whose work reinterprets pictorial representations of power and prestige through the tradition of portrait painting, began to question the meaning of presidential leadership. In 2012, he conceived the idea to create an unprecedented series of portraits of African heads of state. For over 10 years, Wiley traveled throughout Africa to meet various leaders. He discussed with each of them the history of aristocratic, royal, and military portraiture in 17th to 19th century Europe, to develop, in consultation, a composition that reflects the singular view of each person depicted on what it means to be a contemporary African leader.

The portraits reflect the distinctive cultural elements of each state, thus highlighting the immense diversity of the African continent while revealing the unspoken heritage of each individual. These paintings lay bare the contours of the ego, as well as the different communication strategies relating to the construction of an image, both personal and public, while revealing the identity of an individual through the double prism of the artist and his model.


Image: Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria, 2023, oil on linen, 272 x 211 cm - 107 x 83 in. I Photo Tanguy Beurdeley © Kehinde Wiley Courtesy: the artist and Sean Kelly, New York/Los Angeles