Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley @ Brooklyn Museum
It what is such a clever and historically important curation, the Brooklyn Museum is currently showing Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley, showing Wiley's Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005) next to the classic 19th century painting on which it is based: Jacques-Louis David’s Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (1800–1). Not only is the first time we have heard of this pairing shown together, but it is the first time David's masterwork has been shown in NY.
We love installations like this because not only does it show the context for which contemporary artists work, but also shows some of the historical backdrops for which the Old Masters and painters of 200-300 years ago were working. For Wiley, the power of race and masculinity is so sharp and focused in his works, and this portrait is of no exception. The everyday man, powerful in his own right, being juxtapozed with David's subject, the French leader Napoleon, is such a fascinating angle for which we are accustomed to in museums around the world.
As the museum notes: "Seen together, the works by David and Wiley reveal how race, masculinity, power, and representation layer onto portraiture and shape the writing of history. Both paintings cast their protagonists—be it the French general Napoleon Bonaparte or an unnamed man in everyday streetwear—within a heroic tradition of equestrian portraiture. However, each artist defines an icon that reflects the unique political, historical, social, and artistic conditions of their day and age. This project emerges from a collaboration with the Château de Malmaison, France, whose presentation Kehinde Wiley Meets Jacques-Louis David (2019–20) unites both portraits in the historic home of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte."