Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kehinde Wiley at Dietch Projects

Last night I attended Kehinde Wiley's showing at Deitch Projects on Wooster Street. The show stopper was this magnificent painting of three of the best soccer stars on the continent of Africa holding hands, expressing unity and wearing the same uniform. It was a wonderful downtown and uptown (Harlem) crowd. Spotted among the art lovers were Toure, Paper's awesome Zandile Blay, the sexy Lola Ogunnaike, Fab Five Freddy, Kehinde himself and the black-clad American artist Chuck Close:

Close goes to a lot of these openings, and he is an infinitely benevolent presence whether in Chelsea or in the bowels of New York. I always know that I am at the New York City art event of the night if Chuck Close there. And yet he is wholly devoid of the bullshit that many contemporary artists generate, perhaps to keep crowds at arms length. Last night he was in a particular;y good mood as attractive lady after attractive lady asked, nervously, if he'd take a picture with them. Of course he did; why wouldn't he?

I interviewed Kehinde years ago for New York magazine a half a decade ago. He was just getting hot in Contemporary Art circles. He is now a certifiable art star, with this opening at Deitch -- where he is a top earner -- and his global campaign with Puma. Puma sponsors 12 African teams, five of which have qualified for the World Cup finals. As The Fader states: "Kehinde Wiley was commissioned by Puma to create artwork for the brand’s apparel and footwear leading up to the 2010 African Cup of Nations, including crazy t-shirts, shoes that probably are probably too valuable to kick a ball with and an All Africa jersey .." The dancers prepared for their sets as, underneath the bar where interesting cocktails of Veev Acai with sprigs of basil, orange and lime were served.

“My engagement with Puma was one in which I started going outside of America and working globally and collecting fabrics,” Wiley told The Times of London recently. “I always do these decorations behind the models and I wanted to collect fabrics from Asia, from South America, from Africa, and use those as part of my work. I also make my own clothes so when (Puma) said ‘can we engage and do something for the World Cup’ I thought ‘well I’m already doing that’ so it was a perfect marriage”

There was live music, a rarity for opening receptions. The amazing Zozo Afrobeat, led by Fela Kuti's former bandmate Kaleta, played Afrobeat music from Nigeria and the Republic of Benin with subtle infusions of 70s Ethiopian Jazz. There was some dancing, which, among such a hip crowd was nice. Dancing, we can not fail to note, is the second best exercise.

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