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Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art co-acquire painting by Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley (Yale MFA 2001), Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite, 2017, oil on canvas, joint purchase by the Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art with support from the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund, Friends of British Art Fund, and a gift from Sean and Mary Kelly in honor of Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director of the Yale Center for British Art © Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

NEW HAVEN, CONN.- The Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art have co-acquired Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite (2017) by Kehinde Wiley, who graduated from the Yale School of Art in 2001. This is the first time that the Gallery and the Center have jointly purchased an artwork. It is also the first acquisition of a painting by Wiley for both museums.

“My work is highly inflected by the tradition of Western easel portrait painting and with specific emphasis on the British school. Through my time at Yale I was drawn into the language and history of power—its negotiation, its use, and its potential promise for Black figurative painting, as is exemplified in the body of work titled Trickster. Lynette’s portrait takes its cues directly from the tradition of British hunting portraits and evokes a new sensibility, temperature, and cultural logic with regards to the Black female body in hallowed space,” said Wiley.

Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite depicts the contemporary British artist Yiadom-Boakye in full length and at over life-size scale, outfitted as a huntress and posed in a verdant English landscape. Wiley was inspired by the landscape elements of the British artist George Romney’s eighteenth-century portrait of the young aristo- crat Jacob Morland and his hound (now in the collection of the Tate Britain, in London). Wiley’s reinterpretation of the scene replaces the figure of the white male, Morland, with that of Yiadom-Boakye, a Black artist.

At the Center, the portrait of Yiadom-Boakye builds on Wiley’s ongoing dialogue with British painting traditions, providing a contemporary commentary that creates a new his- tory of portraiture for our times. In the Gallery’s collection, Wiley’s painting joins works by other living artists who share his interest in placing Black figures within contexts of American and European art that have thus far excluded them.

“Wiley has firmly established himself as one of the foremost contemporary portraitists by responding to the past contributions of painters,” shared Martina Droth, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Yale Center for British Art. “As a hybrid of the genres of portraiture and landscape, our newly acquired painting resonates not just with other portraits but with many historical works of art across both museums’ collecting areas.”

Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite is part of Wiley’s Trickster series from 2017 that pays tribute to some of the most influential and important artists working today, including Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu (Yale MFA 2000), Mickalene Thomas (Yale MFA 2002), and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. This por- trait series is at once exemplary of the highly precise style for which Wiley is now famous yet departs from his typical practice of painting anonymous sitters. In the Center and the Gallery’s newly acquired painting, Wiley retains the landscape setting but changes the figure’s pose from the historical source.

“In addition to its merits as an unusual and effective example of his work, Wiley’s portrait of Yiadom-Boakye stands as a meaningful tribute from one painter to another,” noted Keely Orgeman, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery. “We hope it will hold particular significance for Yale’s community of artists.”

Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite is on display at the Center through 2021. It has been on loan from the artist and Sean Kelly, New York, since October 2019 on the occasion of an exhibition of Yiadom-Boakye’s work curated by writer Hilton Als. The painting will soon thereafter be displayed at the Gallery.

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