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Kehinde Wiley talks painting Spike Lee for Grey Goose 'Kings Of Culture' series

 Artist, influencer Kehinde Wiley and director, producer Spike Lee unveil Lee's portrait by Wiley onstage during an evening with Kehinde Wiley & Spike Lee presented by GREY GOOSE Le Melon at Crosby Street Hotel
Artist, influencer Kehinde Wiley and director, producer Spike Lee unveil Lee's portrait by Wiley onstage during an evening with Kehinde Wiley & Spike Lee presented by GREY GOOSE Le Melon at Crosby Street Hotel
Photo by Johnny Nunez

Today, on June 21, 2014, Examiner.com is excited to share our exclusive interview with artist Kehinde Wiley who unveiled his portrait of legendary director Spike Lee this week for Grey Goose's "Modern Kings of Culture" series.

So speak about how this collaboration came about with Grey Goose.

Kehinde Wiley: Grey Goose came to me and said that they wanted to celebrate the kings of American popular culture. In keeping with the history of painting, this was something that was right up my alley. So much of my work has been about taking the powerless and making them seen in a way that's powerful. In this particular body of work, what I was doing was actually taking people who already had gone out into the world and done something really great for us and honoring them as really key benchmarks in the broader revolution of popular culture.

And tell us about sitting down about the legendary Spike Lee. What that day was like?

KW: Well, you know, it's not my first time meeting Spike Lee. Or working in fact, with Spike Lee. What many people don't know that Spike is in fact a huge supporter of contemporary art. Many years ago when I first graduated from university, Spike showed up at my studio out of nowhere, and I thought it was a joke, but in fact Spike Lee was downstairs. And we ended up having a series of conversations about painting and art, and about what I was up to, and how he appreciated it. That's the sign of a true artist, someone who is not only about what's being seen by the world, and what's being celebrated out there. Because the voices of what was then a relatively known artist, and that was simply fascinating.

So this is like a full circle moment in a way.
KW: That's right.

So what are you looking forward to this summer?

KW: I look forward to working on my third studio in Senegal. I have 3 studios, one in Beijing, one in New York. And what we're doing is we're expanding now. We're creating a space for visiting artists. So the artists who are at that age when I first met Spike, those young artists will now be able to have spaces outside of New York, outside of America. To to able imagine different ways of art making.

That's wonderful. So tell me about your outfit, I like it!

KW: Well, I just got off a plane from West Africa. This is fabric that came from Senegal ... this all all the work from South Asia from India and Sri Lanka and they were portraits that we had done and some of the outtakes we used for fashion.

The portrait was unveiled at a private party hosted by Grey Goose Le Melon at The Crosby Hotel this week at which Spike Lee, his wife, Q-Tip, Michael K. Williams, Victor Cruz, Jonathan Mannion, Caroline Rhea, Theodora Richards, Danny Aiello, Gregg Bello, A-Trak, Jus Ske, Luis Ramos were in attendance. The evening also featured a special screening of “Making Do the Right Thing.”