Artist Kehinde Wiley unveils ‘Rumors of War’ sculpture in Times Square

September 30, 2019

Rumors of War © Kehinde Wiley. Used by permission. Presented by Times Square Arts in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and Sean Kelly, New York. Photographer: Kylie Corwin for Kehinde Wiley.

The artist widely known for his portrait of former President Barack Obama unveiled last week his first public sculpture. Nigerian-American visual artist Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumors of War will be on display in Times Square until December. Standing 27 feet high, the artwork features a young African American man dressed in ripped jeans and a hoodie sitting on a horse, a direct response to the controversial Confederate monuments found all over the United States.

The project came to be after Wiley visited Richmond and saw the monument to Confederate General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart. The artist said the inspiration for “Rumors of War” is war and engagement with violence.

“Art and violence have for an eternity held a strong narrative grip with each other,” Wiley said in a statement. “Rumors of War attempts to use the language of equestrian portraiture to both embrace and subsume the fetishization of state violence.”

After its time in New York City, “Rumors of War” will be permanently installed on Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and near the J.E.B. Stuart statue.

“The installation of Rumors of War at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts later this year will be a historic moment for our museum and for the city of Richmond,” Alex Nyerges, the director of VMFA, said in a statement. “We hope that the sculpture will encourage public engagement and civic discussion about who is memorialized in our nation and the significance of monuments in the context of American history.”

The sculpture is Wiley’s largest work to date. In 2018, he unveiled his presidential portrait of President Obama, which now sits in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., to much acclaim. Wiley’s work tends to focus on men and women of color who are often left out of historical narratives.

Presented by Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, Wiley’s sculpture will serve as the “battleground for evoking change.”

Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins said: “We are incredibly excited to be working with Wiley, one of the most celebrated and important artists of our time, and one uniquely equipped to challenge how we use our public space, to ask the critical question of ‘who matters?’ and to speak to the power of monuments to reflect and reinforce our values, and ultimately, reimagine our world.”


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