Directed by Jeff Dupre • Documentary • With Kehinde Wiley • 2014 • 40 minutes
The artist behind Barack Obama’s presidential portrait, Kehinde Wiley is known for his vibrant, larger-than-life reinterpretations of classical portraits featuring young Black men. “Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace” follows the artist as he embarks upon an exciting new project – a series of classical portraits of Black women. Embracing serendipity and chance, Kehinde casts his models on the bustling streets of New York – highlighting Chanel, a prison guard at Riker’s Island; Shantavia, a teen mother working for her GED; Cali and Dacia, young lovers in the throws of a new romance; Treisha, an immigrant from Barbados with attitude to spare; and Ena, a nurse who hopes to one day open an art gallery of her own. Finding models is just the beginning of Wiley’s elaborate process. The artist collaborates with Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci to design gowns for his subjects to pose in, paints in his studio in Beijing and finally unveils his works at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York for all to see. “An Economy of Grace” is an exploration of Black beauty and an intimate portrait of one of this generation’s most intriguing and accomplished visionaries.