Artist Kehinde Wiley Takes on Confederate Monuments

Jun 20, 2019


Kehinde Wiley's "Napolean Leading the Army over the Alps" at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in 2016.
Credit Mallory Noe-Payne / RADIOIQ


Artist Kehinde Wiley, best known for painting President Obama’s official portrait, has announced his first large-scale public sculpture. And Virginia will ultimately be its home. The piece is modeled after one of the Richmond’s Confederate monuments.


Standing outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in downtown Richmond, chief curator Michael Taylor waves towards a large grassy space along Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

“So on December 10th we will unveil a sculpture right there, and it will stand about thirty feet tall,” Taylor says.

That’s approximately the same size and structure as the nearby monument of Confederate General J.E.B Stuart. But artist Kehinde Wiley’s version will feature someone different.

“It shows a young African American man, sitting on a horse, it’s a very heroic image,” describes Taylor.

Wiley is known for taking classical paintings and reimagining them with black subjects. But this will be his first public statue. According to a press release, he got the idea in 2016 when he was in the city for the opening of one of his art exhibits.

The statue is called “Rumors of War” and it will be unveiled in Times Square in September. It will come to its permanent home in Richmond after a couple months.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.