Artist reimagines classic paintings with modern twist

By Mick Krever, CNN

Published 3:10 AM ET, Mon February 12, 2018
quote amanpour kehinde wileyquote amanpour kehinde wiley
1 of 10
Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery
"What I choose to do is to take people who happen to look like me -- black and brown people all over the world, increasingly -- and to allow them to occupy that field of power." Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery
Much of his work focuses on reinterpreting classic works of art, like Jacques-Louis David's famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps (next slide) atop his favorite horse, Marengo.
"The world's a scary place. The role of an artist is to look at that world as it is and to imagine alternative possibilities, but also to heighten what actually is. What can I do as an artist that hasn't already been done before? Look closer." Courtesy Kehinde Wiley
Here, Kehinde reinterprets a classical French painting of a couple (next slide), in this case with two men. Courtesy Galerie Daniel Templon
"My job is to walk through the streets, find someone who's minding their own business, trying to get to work, stopping them. The next thing you know, they're hanging on a great museum throughout the world." Courtesy Roberts & Tilton
"What can I do to start a broader conversation about presence and imminence and the desire to be seen as respected and beautiful in this world?" Hort Family Collection
"Well, what I'm doing is I'm looking at fashion as culture, fashion as serious business, where people will oftentimes dress themselves as a form of armor." Courtesy Roberts & Tilton, Sean Kelly, Galerie Daniel Templon, Stephen Friedman Gallery
"Fashion is armor insomuch as it says something about who we are in the world. It also protects us a bit. My work tries to concentrate on fashion as a conceptual color. It's yet another color in my palette, to tell a story." Courtesy Kehinde Wiley
"Every day I count my blessings. There's something to be said about the courage to just throw yourself into this type of work."

"I'd never thought in a million years that I'd be here having the success that I do. But it says something great about America and about New York City that you can have a dream like this. That you can put one foot in front of the other and people will say yes to what you're up to."
Courtesy Kehinde Wiley