Kehinde Wiley announces new artist residency in Dakar

Kehinde Wiley announces new artist residency in Dakar
Painting of President Barack Obama in the National Portrait Gallery by Kehinde Wiley, 2018. Courtesy Flickr Commons.
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On March 19th, artist Kehinde Wiley announced that he will be starting a new artist residency in Dakar. The residency, named Black Rock Senegal for the volcanic rock that lines Dakar’s coast, will inaugurate its programme in June and run through February 2020.

Artists selected for the residency will be provided with accommodations (in a compound designed by Senegalese architect Abib Djenne with interiors designed by Wiley and Senegalese designer Aissa Dione), a stipend, and studio space for one to three months. Those participating in the residency will also benefit from programme staff ensuring artists get accustomed to Dakar and tutors to help with French, Wolof, and English – the programme’s three main languages. Black Rock Senegal will facilitate artists from various art disciplines as well, from writers to painters to filmmakers.

In a statement, Wiley, based in New York, said:

‘Black Rock Senegal came out of a direct need to engage Africa in a much more personal way. I discovered Dakar on a layover in 1997, back when Air Afrique was the sole provider of flights from the west to Nigeria. It was my first visit to Africa and I was immediately enraptured by Senegalese language, food, art, culture, and tradition. […] As an Artist who works in the west I desired a space of renewal to explore new ideas and to create work outside of a western context—to create work within the context of my own lineage. Black Rock stands as the direct answer to my desire to have an uncontested relationship with Africa, the filling in of a large void that I share with many African Americans.’

Sean Kelly, whose gallery represents Wiley, told ARTnews, ‘I think [the residency] represents a very personal desire from Kehinde to connect with his African heritage. He’s from LA, but his father is Nigerian. He’s travelled to Africa, but he didn’t grow up there. This represents an innate desire to really understand the culture he comes from and his roots.’ Kelly also stated that residency programmes are near and dear to Wiley because Wiley, himself, participated in New York’s Studio Museum’s residency programme. For Wiley, the residency was a pivotal moment in his career and he hopes that Black Rock Senegal will do the same from more artists; ‘This gives him the opportunity to give back and enfranchise younger artists,’ added Kelly.

Wiley, born in 1977, is well-known for his inimitable portraits that often feature black figures against vibrant, patterned backgrounds. In 2018, Wiley created President Barack Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which he and Obama unveiled in February 2018. Wiley’s painting, as well as Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, helped break the NPG’s attendance record in 2018.



Applications for the first Black Rock Senegal rotation will be accepted through April 15th, 2019. After applications have been reviewed by a committee, recipients of the residency will be announced in May.