National Gallery, London
Barack Obama’s portraitist took black Londoners to Norway and filmed their frozen adventures. Shown alongside his diverse reworkings of great paintings, the result is an exhibition full of resonance
Kehinde Wiley, the official portraitist of former president Barack Obama, has also made paintings of Grandmaster Flash, Ice-T and Michael Jackson, as well as various sports stars, not to mention fellow artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Yinka Shonibare and Kerry James Marshall. He has reworked painters as diverse as Goya, Jacques-Louis David, Rembrandt and Gainsborough. He’s a complex and erudite artist.
At the National Gallery, Wiley fills the Sunley Room with five paintings and a six-channel digital film. For his film, Prelude, Kehinde “cast” a group of black Londoners whom he met in Soho, taking them to the north of Norway. Shooting began just as the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The film is largely improvised, and Wiley has his cast walking, running and trudging through snow, surrounded by picturesque fjords and lowering mountains.