Photography by Ryan Pfluger Photographed at Kehinde Wiley Studio, Brooklyn, on September 18, 2015. Styling by Javon Drake.
With his subversive take on European masterpieces — young black men in T-shirts and Timberlands against ornate floral backgrounds — Kehinde Wiley has become an international art brand. This year, “A New Republic,” a mid-career retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, showcased his greatest hits. His work was also prominent in Lee Daniels’s runaway smash, Empire, seen hanging alongside Basquiats and a Monet in the Lyons mansion. “I get tons and tons of comments from people who knew nothing about my work,” he told Time magazine, “and by virtue of this show, it’s starting to change the conversation.” And challenge perceptions of blackness along the way.
Less than a year ago, Lee Daniels was a well-respected, Oscar-nominated filmmaker. Today, he’s the man behind Empire, one of the most buzzed-about television hits of the decade. A groundbreaking success on multiple levels, the hip-hop melodrama, now in its second season, not only broke ratings records for Fox, it thrust gay themes — specifically relating to the black community — into the living rooms of millions. “I’d been so used to living in my own world,” says the writer, director, and producer. “But so many gay people and people of color have stopped me on the street and thanked me. This experience has humbled me.”