New Arrival At OKCMOA Aims To Diversify Portrait Collection

Monday, February 18th 2019, 6:35 pm
By: News 9

A gorgeous portrait just arrived at its new home in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and it was painted by the same hand that crafted the official likeness of President Barack Obama. 

The Kehinde Wiley painting is making more statements than one as the new centerpiece for the portrait collection.

The museum's quest for a Kehinde Wiley piece started shortly after his full exhibition left Oklahoma City in 2017, which saw great success even in the months before the artist unveiled his most famous work featuring the former president.

“People came back a number of times,” recalls Michael Anderson, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs. “We had a surge in membership, so we knew that this was something that people immediately invested in.”

"Jacob de Graeff" has finally arrived as a permanent addition to the museum’s collection, titled not for the name of the subject himself, but for the 17th century portrait of a Dutchman who inspired the piece. Ferguson, Mo. rapper Brincel Kapeli Wiggins now proudly displays his own culture in the image 400 years later.

“We’re seeing these incredible details,” Anderson remarks. “If you look closer, he has this wonderful patchy beard that you would never expect to see in a museum.”

Each of Wiley's pieces sends a strong message, adding not only diversity of era to the museum's collection, but also diversity of race. Anderson hopes the painting draws in people of color as well as those who do not look like the subject.

“I want them to see, first of all, the virtuosity of the artist’s work,” Anderson says. “We want them to see the power of this work, to see also what portrait has become in the 21st century.”

Museum directors hope to evoke emotion and a dialogue about society among visitors, giving them a variety of depths to explore centuries of artistic evolution.

“Kehinde stands for something and we want to stand for the same thing,” says Anderson.

You can see the piece for yourself when the exhibit opens Friday, March 1.