Known for his vibrant, larger-than-life reinterpretation of classical portraits featuring young African-American men, New York-based visual artist Kehinde Wiley has turned the practice of portraiture on its head—and in the process, has taken the art world by storm.

Now, Wiley has undertaken an exciting new project: a series of classical portraits of African-American women, something he’s never done before.  The short film, Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, documents the project as it unfolds, tracking Wiley’s process from concept to canvas, and coming to know the women whom he selects to paint. As with Wiley’s previous work, his models are street-casted in New York City and posed to recall the 18th and 19th century portraits of society figures, which inspire Wiley’s vision. Rather than wearing their own clothing, however—as his male subjects have done—Wiley envisions each of his female models swathed in an original couture gown. To realize his vision, he will join forces with one of the world’s top fashion houses, Givenchy, giving rise to an utterly unique and extremely high profile collaboration between art and haute couture.

Stream the series on

Buy the DVD


Winner – Best short documentary film, SXSW, Austin, TX
Winner – HBO Audience Award, Best Short Film – Provincetown International Film Festival
Winner – The Goethe Reel Audience Director award, Reel Artists Film Festival, Toronto, Canada.
Winner – Grand Jury Prize, Documentary Short – DeadCenter Film Festival