Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley at Brooklyn Museum, through May 10, 2020

The Brooklyn Museum presents Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley, an exhibition pairing an iconic painting from the Museum’s collection—Kehinde Wiley’s Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005)—with its early nineteenth-century source image: Jacques-Louis David’s Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (1800–1). By displaying the two paintings together, in dialogue with each other for the very first time, the exhibition explores how ideas of race, masculinity, representation, power, and agency have played out across the history of Western portraiture.

David’s famous portrait was commissioned in 1800 by King Charles IV of Spain in an effort to win the favor of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was then First Consul of France. In the two centuries since its commission, Bonaparte Crossing the Alps has inspired numerous interpretations, but none seem to resonate in contemporary culture as much as Wiley’s large-scale version. In his Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, Napoleon is replaced with a Black man wearing camouflage fatigues and Timberland boots. By combining the role, stature, and implied historical legacy depicted in Bonaparte Crossing the Alps with visual markers of status from contemporary African American culture, Wiley challenges the art historical canon, critiquing how it has routinely overlooked the collective Black cultural experience.” — Brooklyn Museum 

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Installation view. Photo by Corrado Serra.

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Installation view. Photo by Corrado Serra.

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Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977). Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005. Oil on canvas, 108 × 108 in. (274.3 × 274.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Partial gift of Suzi and Andrew Booke Cohen in memory of Ilene R. Booke and in honor of Arnold L. Lehman, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, and William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2015.53. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

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Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748–1825). Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (Bonaparte franchissant le Grand-Saint-Bernard), 1800–1. Oil on canvas, 102 1/3 × 87 in. (261 × 221 cm). Collection of Château de Malmaison. (Photo: Courtesy RMN-GP)

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Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977). Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (detail), 2005. Oil on canvas, 108 × 108 in. (274.3 × 274.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Partial gift of Suzi and Andrew Booke Cohen in memory of Ilene R. Booke and in honor of Arnold L. Lehman, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, and William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2015.53. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

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Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748–1825). Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (Bonaparte franchissant le Grand-Saint-Bernard) (detail), 1800–1. Oil on canvas, 102 1/3 × 87 in. (261 × 221 cm). Collection of Château de Malmaison. (Photo: Courtesy RMN-GP)

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Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977). Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (detail), 2005. Oil on canvas, 108 × 108 in. (274.3 × 274.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Partial gift of Suzi and Andrew Booke Cohen in memory of Ilene R. Booke and in honor of Arnold L. Lehman, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, and William K. Jacobs, Jr. Fund, 2015.53. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

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Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748–1825). Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (Bonaparte franchissant le Grand-Saint-Bernard) (detail), 1800–1. Oil on canvas, 102 1/3 × 87 in. (261 × 221 cm). Collection of Château de Malmaison. (Photo: Courtesy RMN-GP)

Jacques- Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley is organized by the Brooklyn Museum in collaboration with the Château de Malmaison, where the original version of David’s portrait is permanently displayed. Before traveling to the Brooklyn Museum, the two paintings were on view at the Château de Malmaison. The Brooklyn presentation is curated by Lisa Small, Senior Curator, European Art, and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.