Museum reopens with portrait by world-famous artist

American artist Kehinde Wiley's portrait 'Saint Adelaide' is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely.

American artist Kehinde Wiley's portrait 'Saint Adelaide' is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely. - Credit: STAINED GLASS MUSEUM ELY

A "larger than life" portrait by world-famous American artist Kehinde Wiley is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely. 

'Saint Adelaide' (2014) is from his series of freestanding stained glass panels that depict contemporary portraits of young black residents of Brooklyn, New York.

His contemporary stained glass panels mimic the form, pose, positioning and framing of carefully-selected historic stained glass windows, placing contemporary portraits of black men in the place of traditional saints.

American artist Kehinde Wiley's portrait 'Saint Adelaide' is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely.

American artist Kehinde Wiley's portrait 'Saint Adelaide' is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely. - Credit: STAINED GLASS MUSEUM ELY

Measuring over 2.5m high and 1m wide, 'Saint Adelaide' is Wiley's first piece to enter a public art collection worldwide.

The title and subject were inspired by a 19th century stained glass window designed by the French painter Ingres for the Royal Chapel of Saint Ferdinand (or Notre-Dame de la Compassion) in Paris.


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In place of the Holy Roman Empress Adelaide (931-999) is Brooklyn model Mark Shavers, who has appeared as a sitter in several of Wiley’s works. 

Jasmine Allen, director and curator of the museum, said: "ince I first saw Wiley’s stained glass portraits at an exhibition in Paris in 2016, I have wanted to acquire a panel for the museum’s permanent collection. 

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"In a simple but powerful way Wiley’s art addresses the representation of young black men in contemporary culture and challenges the conventions of western art." 

She added that ‘Saint Adelaide’ is also the museum’s first acquisition by a known queer black artist.

American artist Kehinde Wiley's portrait 'Saint Adelaide' is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely.

American artist Kehinde Wiley's portrait 'Saint Adelaide' is now on display at The Stained Glass Museum in Ely. - Credit: STAINED GLASS MUSEUM ELY

"As cultural institutions in the UK are rightly beginning to confront our colonial past and its legacy today, this acquisition enables us to explore and question attitudes towards race, gender and religion in stained glass," she sadi. 

"I hope our visitors agree that it is a positive and powerful artwork.”

Following the success of Wiley’s freestanding stained glass portraits made between 2014 and 2016, he recently completed his first site-specific stained glass artwork – a stained glass ceiling commissioned for a railway station in New York, installed in January 2021.

Only a handful of Wiley’s artworks can be seen in the UK, and The National Gallery, London, will host an exhibition of Wiley’s works in autumn 2021.

Saint Adelaide is now on permanent display in the main gallery of The Stained Glass Museum, located on an upper level of Ely Cathedral. 

The artwork was purchased for the museum’s permanent collection with the help of Art Fund and Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Arts Council England/SHARE Museums East Acquisitions Fund.

The Stained Glass Museum reopened on Tuesday May 18. Standard admission to the museum is £4.50 for adults, children are free. Entry is free for National Art Pass holders. 

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