© ADAGP Paris 2019 / Photography: Diane Arques / Kehinde Wiley – Portrait of Shelby Hunter (2019)

With his extensive portraiture of African Americans, Kehinde Wiley made a name for himself in the arts scene stateside, but it wasn’t until he put the very same subjects in traditional settings of Old Master paintings that the artist firmly anchored himself in the international arts scene while also becoming a protagonist of sorts of Black Culture. But now, Wiley has shifted his artistic focus to a different ethnicity halfway across the planet. Currently on at Galerie Templon in Paris is Tahiti – Kehinde Wiley, an exhibition of new portraits with a focus on Tahiti‘s Māhū community, the traditional Polynesian classification of people of a third gender, between male and female.The Māhū were highly respected within their society until they were banned by Catholic and Protestant missionaries.

Wiley’s portraits of beautiful, transgender Tahitian women reference and confront Paul Gauguin‘s celebrated works, which also feature subjects from the transgender community, but are in fact fraught with historical undertones of colonialism and sexual objectification. Building off of Wiley’s earlier portraits which addressed issues of masculine identity and virility, these new portraits explore issues of identity through the lens of transformation, exploring both artifice and artificiality as a trans-cultural phenomenon. In tandem with the exhibition, a video-installation based on his time spent this past year in Tahiti is put on display (on through Jul 20). Location: Galerie Templon, 28 rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare (Marais).

© ADAGP Paris 2019 / Photography: Diane Arques / Kehinde Wiley – Portrait of Moerai Matanui (2019)