Museums cancel Kehinde Wiley exhibition in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) has called off an upcoming exhibition by painter Kehinde Wiley in light of recent allegations of sexual misconduct made against the artist by several men. The Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami have also quietly put plans to stage Wiley's work on hold.

In a statement sent to The Times, Wiley denied the allegations, writing, "It is disappointing that this social media-driven fabrication is distracting from the goal of the tour: shedding light on the inequities Black and Brown people face in our society. These allegations are completely false, raising more questions about their credibility and motivation than there are facts supporting their authenticity."

A media rep for Mia wrote, "Mia was considering taking the Kehinde Wiley exhibition, but as a result of these unfortunate allegations we will not be proceeding with this presentation."

Wiley, who is from South Los Angeles, rose to international fame in 2018 with his official portrait of Barack Obama, which is housed in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The painting features the president against a lush backdrop of chrysanthemums, jasmine and African blue lilies. In 2021 the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens commissioned Wiley to create a response to Thomas Gainsborough's 1770 portrait "The Blue Boy," which is by far the most popular work in its collection. For a time, Wiley's painting, "A Portrait of a Young Gentleman," hung in its place.

The first allegation against Wiley surfaced in late May in an Instagram post by British-born Ghanaian artist Joseph Awuah-Darko, who founded the Noldor Artist Residency. Awuah-Darko claimed that Wiley grabbed his buttocks during a dinner held in Wiley's honor in Ghana in June 2021. He also alleged a second assault that was "much more severe and violent."

Earlier this week, a second man, Black Lives Matter activist Derrick Ingram, alleged on Instagram that Wiley raped and sexually assaulted him in 2021. Awuah-Darko posted this claim, along with those of a third man, Terrell Armistead, who alleged Wiley sexually assaulted him in his Manhattan apartment when Armistead was in his final year of college in 2010.


Wiley's attorney, Jennifer Barrett, issued a statement to The Times denying Armistead's allegations.

"Mr. Awuah-Darko has found yet another troubled individual to join in his campaign to defame Mr. Wiley.  Mr. Wiley does not know who this latest accuser is. Nor does he recall ever meeting him," she wrote. "But what is clear is that the events he is describing never took place. Like Mr. Awuah-Darko, he has fabricated this sordid story entirely — right down to the 'two big dogs' he claimed Mr. Wiley had at the time. In fact, while Mr. Wiley's two Afghan hounds have been frequently featured in the media, he did not own them until five years after the alleged event — the first in 2015 and the second in 2017."

Barrett included a picture of a receipt for an Afghan puppy dated 2015, adding that Wiley, "intends to pursue every avenue available to him, legal and otherwise, to defend his reputation."

The Joslyn and Pérez art museums did not respond to requests for comment by The Times regarding their reasons for removing Wiley from their upcoming programming, although a rep for Wiley said his team is working with the Joslyn museum to reschedule the exhibition.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Wiley denied the allegations made by Awuah-Darko and Ingram, writing, "What is motivating these individuals to hurl these disgusting accusations? ... We live in a world where a single false social media post can destroy someone's life, where people are tried and convicted online without regard for the truth. This is dangerous and wrong."

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