29 June 2022

Kehinde Wiley’s series ‘The Prelude’ is acquired by the rennie collection

Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to announce the acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s celebrated new series ‘The Prelude’ (2021) by the rennie collection. Exhibited by the National Gallery, London, to great acclaim between December 2021 and April 2022, it consists of five large-scale paintings and an immersive six-channel digital film.

“So striking is the alchemy, so tactile and insistent, that by the time (Kehinde Wiley) concludes his efforts we are left with a genre that can never again be what it formerly was.” – The Times

Kehinde Wiley (Nigerian-American) is renowned for his portraits that feature contemporary people of colour in the traditional settings of Old Master paintings. In 2017 Wiley was commissioned to paint Barack Obama, becoming the first Black artist to paint an official portrait of a President of the United States.

In ‘The Prelude’, Wiley explores the conventions and canons of the Western landscape tradition. The artist examines European Romanticism and humankind’s relationship with nature, and touches upon current concerns such as climate change and migration. The works raise questions about power, privilege and identity, and bring to light the absence or marginalisation of Black figures within European art. Wiley’s paintings in the series reference the Romantic wanderer on a quest for self-discovery.

Stephen Friedman, said:

“The Prelude’ is a significant milestone in Kehinde Wiley’s practice and I am delighted that the body of work in its entirety has been acquired by the rennie collection. Bob Rennie embraced Wiley’s ambition to keep this series together to continue its amplification and impact. He has been a champion of artists for many years and I hugely admire his focus, dedication and ambition to acquire for the collection the very best and most significant work by every artist. I would like to also thank the National Gallery for organising the exhibition, providing Wiley with a public platform unlike any other.”

Bob Rennie, said:

“One of my core principles is that nothing comes into the collection that doesn’t speak to the collection. Kehinde's statement in Financial Times about his installation at the National Gallery, London “What we wanted to do was to look at this broad tradition of romanticising nature as a character but as an ‘other’. Nature has always stood at arm’s distance, something for either fear or for conquering”, holds the conversation on social justice, which has been an overriding thread in the collection. Simply replace the word “nature” with “race” in Kehinde’s quote and you have a narrative on racism. Museums can, and should, take on these tough and very necessary conversations. This belief combines with our philosophy that, as good custodians, we endeavour to support and encourage artists to keep rooms together to mark today's conversations for tomorrow, and for our ongoing museum lending in years to come.”

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