Man with his eyes closed laying on a grassy ground, in front of a colorful wallpaper backdrop

Kehinde Wiley, Femme Piquée par un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye), 2022. Oil on canvas, 131 7/8 x 300 in. (335 x 762 cm), framed: 143 5/16 x 311 x 3 15/16 in. (364 x 790 x 10 cm). EX1137.2. ©️ Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Galerie Templon, Paris. Photo: Ugo Carmeni

Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence

American artist Kehinde Wiley’s new body of paintings and sculptures confronts the silence surrounding systemic violence against Black people through the visual language of the fallen figure. It expands on his 2008 series, Down — a group of large-scale portraits of young Black men inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Dead Christ in the Tomb (1521–1522). Wiley investigates the iconography of death and sacrifice in Western art, tracing it across religious, mythological, and historical subjects. In An Archaeology of Silence, the senseless deaths of men and women around the world are transformed into a powerful elegy of resistance. The resulting paintings of figures struck down, wounded, or dead, referencing iconic paintings of mythical heroes, martyrs, and saints, offer a haunting meditation on the legacies of colonialism and systemic racism.

In the news

  • Massive, exquisitely rendered, and weighted with significance, the work proves both of the moment and transcendent of it.

    James Tarmy, Bloomberg
  • The works portray Black men and women as icons, and while vulnerable, the figures exude a sense of resilience and perseverance.

    Grace Ebert, COLOSSAL




Every American is affected by legacies of colonialism and systemic racism, in ways conscious and unconscious. Yet it can be overwhelming to identify avenues for getting involved in our communities, as well as seek out the support we need in the face of ongoing injustice and harm. The following is a non-exhaustive list of local and national resources, produced with the intention of sparking vulnerable dialogue, inspiring collective action, and offering tools for building the world we want to see.

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This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Presenting Sponsors

Ford Foundation logo
Google logo

Major Support
Dagmar Dolby

Generous Support
The Harris Family
Charles and Brandi Hudson
Kaitlyn and Mike Krieger
Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman
Paul L. Wattis Foundation
Sonya Yu

Additional support is provided by the Adamolekun Family, Lisa Blackwell, Quinn Delaney and Wayne Jordan, Delvecchio and Kelly Finley, Bryan and Tara Meehan, Elaine Mellis, the Plexo Foundation, Soho House, Lisa and Jim Zanze, and the Contemporary Support Council.

Free admission on select weekends is generously underwritten by Year-round, Free Saturdays admission for Bay Area residents is generously underwritten by Diane B. Wilsey and programming is supported by the Koret Foundation and Wells Fargo.

Currently on view