former us president barack obama and first lady michelle obama stand picture

Kehinde Wiley's Incredible Wardrobe

The artist is known for his eye-popping portraits of black Americans, now including President Obama. And his personal style is just as stunning.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

With a few notable exceptions, presidential portraits have looked more or less the same throughout U.S. history. And then came the Obamas on canvas: the first black president and the first black first lady, captured beautifully, powerfully by black artists. And not just any black artists, but two artists whose work has been intentional, overtly political, and racially conscious. Michelle Obama chose artist Amy Sherald, known for her grayscale portraits of black subjects.

MBFW A/W 2010: Puma Presents New Lifestyle LineAndreas Rentz/Getty Images President Obama selected Kehinde Wiley, a queer black artist known for his stunning portraits of black subjects foregrounding intricate, color-filled backdrops.

painting of biggie smalls by kehinde wiley at the splashlight studios picture

Stephen Lovekin/WireImage

this photo shows equestrian portrait of king philip ii featuring the picture


He paints contemporary black icons as though they were royalty. Here, Biggie Smalls with a backdrop of golden fleur de lis, and Michael Jackson in regal armor atop a horse.

kehinde wiley attends the armory show 2006 opening night preview to picture

Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

kehinde wiley attends kehinde wiley puma and deitch projects presents picture

David X Prutting/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

He similarly elevates everyday black people – a man in a hoodie presented like a renaissance masterpiece – empowering the subjects and challenging outdated notions of fine art every step of the way.

But Wiley’s elaborate florals and patterns do not end on the canvas. His artistic style carries over to his personal style – catching eyes at every gallery he walks into.

MoCADA 2nd Annual Masquerade BallJenny Anderson "Art and fashion are strictly tied because, in many ways, they speak the same language," Wiley told The New York Times. "Fashion is about the ephemeral, about the moment. Art is about timelessness and the idea that we can sort of create something that stands in for what we want and takes value over the years."

8th Annual Brazil Foundation Gala After PartyBrian Killian/WireImage See the blazers behind the brush — the incredible looks of Kehinde Wiley.

Opening Reception for Kehinde Wiley: Trickster and Laurent Grasso: ElyseePresley Ann Strutting in Turquoise

Brooklyn Museum's 4th Annual Brooklyn Artists BallMireya Acierto/Getty Images Prince of Prints

Kehinde Wiley Signs His New Book 'Black Light' At Barneys New YorkNeilson Barnard/Getty Images Purple Piping

Patrick McMullan ArchivesPatrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images Peacocking With Those Lapels

9th Annual ARTrageous Gala Dinner And Art AuctionAstrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Pink!!

Harlem School Of The Arts Hosts 50th Anniversary Kickoff At The PlazaMichael Loccisano Pulling It Off

Kalkidan Mashasha And DJ Spooky Perform At The Jewish MuseumJohnny Nunez/WireImage Better Than Pinstripes

Grey Goose Le Melon Kehinde Wiley Preview Cocktail ReceptionRodrigo Varela/Getty Images for Grey Goose Leopard in Blue

Grey Goose Presents Kehinde Wiley 'Modern Kings Of Culture' Art AuctionFrazer Harrison/Getty Images for Grey Goose Perfect Pastels

5th Annual Brooklyn Artists BallAndrew Toth/Getty Images Literally Fly

GREY GOOSE Vodka Hosts The Official Launch Of GREY GOOSE Le MelonJohnny Nunez Bold and Beautiful

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