Contemporary Conversations: Kehinde Wiley & The Duke of Devonshire

Watch African-American artist Kehinde Wiley and the Duke of Devonshire as they explore the ways in which contemporary artists are inspired and influenced by the great art of the past, referencing it to explore ideas about identity, status and culture. The discussion is moderated by Sotheby's Chairman Oliver Barker.

Meet the Panel

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley is an American artist best known for his portraits that render people of colour in the traditional settings of Old Master paintings. Born in Los Angeles in 1977, Wiley’s work brings art history face-to-face with contemporary culture, using the visual rhetoric of the heroic, the powerful, the majestic and the sublime to celebrate black and brown people the artist has met throughout the world. Working in the mediums of painting, sculpture, and video, Wiley’s portraits challenge and reorient art-historical narratives, awakening complex issues that many would prefer remain muted.

In 2018 Wiley became the first African-American artist to paint an official U.S. Presidential portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Former U.S.President Barack Obama selected Wiley for this honor. In 2019 the artist launched Black Rock Senegal, a non-profit artist-in-residence program located in Dakar, Senegal. That same year, Wiley debuted his first large-scale public sculpture in Times Square, New York, showcasing a young African American man astride a rearing horse. In 2020 Wiley received France’s distinction of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. Wiley has held solo exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally and his works are included in the collections of over 40 public institutions around the world.

The Duke of Devonshire

Since 2006, the Duke of Devonshire his wife Amanda have been custodians of Chatsworth House, one of the finest houses in Britain. The Duke and Duchess are enthusiastic collectors in several fields, especially modern British paintings, sculpture, silver and ceramics.

For the last five years Chatsworth has hosted Art Out Loud, an annual festival of talks by artists, architects, writers and figures from across the arts. Alongside this, Chatsworth hosts an Artist in Residence programme that allows for contemporary practitioners to interact with the collection, the estate and the family legacy of supporting the visual arts. Previous artists include Linder Sterling and Rachel Feinstein, in association with Gucci.

Explore the award-winning Treasures from Chatsworth series.

Oliver Barker

Oliver Barker joined Sotheby’s in 1994, moving to the Contemporary Art Department in 2001, and rising to Chairman, Sotheby’s Europe, Senior International Specialist in 2016. He is a key figure on the rostrum at the major auctions in both London and New York, and was described by German news magazine Der Spiegel as ‘a figurehead of the art market’, presiding over the landmark Bowie/Collector auction in London in November 2016, which was 100% sold, totalled £32.9 million and attracted 1,750 bidders.

Barker has played a pivotal role in the growth of the global market for post-war British art, including for Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and the London school. The many exceptional results and records for artists orchestrated by Barker include the 2018 sale of Lucian Freud’s late masterpiece Portrait on a White Cover which realised £22.5 million, and in the New York sale room in 2018, Barker hammered down Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982 for $110.5 million – a new auction record for a work by an American artist. More recently, Barker presided over the sale of ‘the’ Banksy – retrospectively titled Love is in the Bin – which caught the imagination of the worldwide media when it was shredded by the artist at the moment the canvas hammered for £1.04 million. Displayed in Sotheby’s London galleries, the famed work by the British artist attracted 1,000 visitors per hour who came from across the globe to see the work created in what Barker termed “a brilliant Banksy moment”.

Since March 2020, Barker has been at the forefront of reinventing the livestream auction format, one of the most revolutionary developments to global auctioneering in recent times, and setting the benchmark for the future of the industry.