Kehinde Wiley’s first monumental public sculpture, Rumors of War, will be installed this fall on the Broadway Plaza between 46th and 47th Streets before it is permanently installed on historic Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond at the entrance to the VMFA, a recent acquisition to the museum’s world-class collection in 2020.
The installation is a larger-than-life sculpture cast in bronze, of a massive horse mounted proudly on a large stone pedestal, with a young, African-American rider dressed in urban streetwear. It is Wiley’s direct response to the critical national debate around Confederate monuments, and continues the artist’s career-long investigation of representation, race, gender, and power through portraiture.
Kehinde Wiley states, “The inspiration for Rumors of War is war—is an engagement with violence. Art and violence have for an eternity held a strong narrative grip with each other. Rumors of War attempts to use the language of equestrian portraiture to both embrace and subsume the fetishization of state violence. New York and Times Square in particular sit at the crossroads of human movement on a global scale. To have the Rumors of War sculpture presented in such a context lays bare the scope and scale of the project in its conceit to expose the beautiful and terrible potentiality of art to sculpt the language of domination.”
Standing as a statue to the violence afflicted against bodies every day, Wiley’s work presents a powerful visual repositioning of young black men in our public consciousness while directly engaging the national conversation around controversial monuments and their role in perpetuating incomplete narratives and contemporary inequities. In recent years, the discourse and actions around these monuments have included efforts to better contextualize them and have resulted in both the addition and removal of monuments in more than 30 states and New York City. Premiering Rumors of War in Times Square situates Wiley’s work at a global crossroads of civic engagement – where the black body of Wiley’s subject can become itself the battleground for evoking change and where the epicenter of Manhattan can become a space for citizens of the city, the country, and the world to come together to discuss the most important issues of our time.
Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins states “We are incredibly excited to be working with Wiley, one of the most celebrated and important artists of our time, and one uniquely equipped to challenge how we use our public space, to ask the critical question of “who matters?”, and to speak to the power of monuments to reflect and reinforce our values, and ultimately, reimagine our world. We are honored to be premiering this historic work, and to join the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in supporting Wiley’s contribution to this important national conversation.”
The project originated when the artist encountered the equestrian monument to Confederate States Army general James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart while visiting Richmond, Virginia for the opening of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at the VMFA in June 2016. A few blocks away from the museum is Monument Avenue, a nationally landmarked boulevard lined with Confederate statues, including monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson. These monuments have a particular resonance because they function to continually commemorate the Confederacy.
The state of Virginia has more memorials to the Confederacy than any other state in the country. As with many Confederate monuments, erected in the aftermath of Reconstruction, their function was meant to not only memorialize the dead, but also to reestablish a social order. This also accounts for the relatively few monuments that recognize women and people of color, making the VMFA a powerful place to site Wiley’s historic work.
VMFA Director Alex Nyerges states, “The installation of Rumors of War at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts later this year will be a historic moment for our museum and for the city of Richmond. We hope that the sculpture will encourage public engagement and civic discussion about who is memorialized in our nation and the significance of monuments in the context of American history. We are especially pleased that through the acquisition of this work, the monuments in Richmond will further reflect the incredible diversity of its population.”
“New York and Times Square in particular sit at the crossroads of human movement on a global scale,” says Wiley, and “lays bare the scope and scale of the project in its conceit to expose the beautiful potentiality of art to sculpt the language of domination.” After premiering in Times Square, Rumors of War will be permanently exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA, home to the historic Monument Ave..
Following its presentation in Times Square, Rumors of War will be permanently installed on historic Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond at the entrance to the VMFA, a recent acquisition to the museum’s world-class collection.
Rumors of War will be on view on the Broadway plaza at 46th Street from September 27 to December 2019. Times Square Arts is proud to present this work in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and Sean Kelly, New York.