Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted the official Presidential portrait of Barack Obama, has signed with Brillstein Entertainment Partners for representation in film, TV, unscripted, and endorsements. Wiley will work closely with Brillstein to identify directing opportunities, option books, produce, develop his own material as well as collaborate with other screenwriters and creators in addition to licensing his works.
Wiley is looking to join a long and growing list of painters and photographers who have transitioned into movies and television, including Academy Award winner Steve McQueen, Julian Schnabel, and Sam Taylor Johnson. More recently, A24 acquired worldwide rights to Native Son, from a script by Suzan-Lori Parks and to be directed by celebrated conceptual artist Rashid Johnson.
One of the most decorated and recognizable contemporary visual artists in the world today, Wiley is influenced heavily by European portraitists of the 18th century, such as Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds but his paintings are based on “street casting” unknown African American youths from places like Harlem, Port-au-Prince, New Dehli, and South Los Angeles, where he grew up. He depicts them in poses and religious imagery traditionally reserved for white nobility. His painting of LL Cool J, commissioned for his “RECOGNIZE!” series, was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of John D. Rockefeller. The oil on canvas is on loan to the Smithsonian Institute.
Wiley “celebrity painter” cred reached a high-water mark when his paintings were featured in the first season of Fox’s Empire. Wiley was selected by Barack Obama to paint his official Presidential portrait. The portrait, unveiled last month, now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
Wiley’a paintings are in collections of over 40 museums. In 2015 he was honored by the US State Department with the Medal of Arts Award, celebrating his commitment to cultural diplomacy through the visual arts.]