3. Kehinde Wiley’s Equestrian Statue in Times Square
Equestrian sculptures and paintings almost always feature a white man in a position of power and dominance. Women appear infrequently, Joan of Arc, for example, and a few women monarchs like Queen Elizabeth II. But an African American or Black person astride a horse? Now that is a rarity. A new monumental equestrian sculpture, Rumors of War, has just arrived to Times Square, by the artist Kehinde Wiley who painted Barack Obama’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.
Everything about this sculpture is meant to provocate, to question, to upend. The man who sits atop the horse is not only young, but also wearing the garb of present day — a hoodie and jeans — and sporting dreadlocks. The horse, rearing its front leg, is reminiscent of Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Rumors of War is massive, at 27 feet tall and 16 feet wide, and Wiley’s largest work of his career so far. It sits here first in Times Square, at the center of mass consumption and visual stimuli, but will be headed to Richmond, Virginia, the heart of the Confederacy and its accompanying statues, to stand at the entrance of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ entrance on Arthur Ashe Boulevard.