Press Release

Press Release: Free Weekends – ‘Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Science’

From the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco:

A grant from provides eight weekends of free admission and support for vital public programming, including school and youth curriculum. 

Exhibition opens March 18 

Kehinde Wiley will mark the opening with a free artist talk at 1 p.m. 

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the “Museums”) announced the receipt of their single largest grant in the institution’s history from a corporate foundation., with support from Google Arts & Culture, has provided $1 million in funding in support of the U.S. premiere of the exhibition Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence, which will open at the de Young museum on March 18.

The unprecedented grant will make the exhibition more accessible to Bay Area communities and enable the Museums to offer free admission to the exhibition on eight weekends. In addition, the grant supports a free audio guide, public programming such as a talk with the artist, grief workshops, school and youth curriculum, an exhibition film, and an ongoing community engagement speaker series presented in partnership with LiveFree—an SF organization working to end the gun violence, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of Black and Brown people. The Museums will also partner with Google Arts & Culture to amplify the exhibition through the YouTube series “Art Zoom.” 

Kehinde Wiley, “Femme piquée par un serpent (Mamadou Gueye)”, 2022 Oil on canvas. ©️ 2022 Kehinde Wiley Courtesy of the artist and Templon, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Ugo Carmeni.

Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence presents a monumental new body of work created against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and the worldwide rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Expanding upon American artist Kehinde Wiley’s Down series from 2008, An Archaeology of Silence meditates on the deaths of young Black people slain all over the world. The 25 works stand as elegies and monuments, underscoring the fraught terms in which Black people are rendered visible, especially when at the hands of systemic violence. Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence will be on view March 18–October 15, 2023, at the de Young museum in San Francisco. Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Museums of San Francisco, serves as curator for the presentation of the work at the de Young. 

“We are deeply grateful to for their generous support of Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence”, said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The messages imbued in this work are urgent, and Google’s support will enable us to open the exhibition to thousands of people who might not have been otherwise able to attend.’s commitment to this exhibition is also allowing us to amplify our interpretative efforts – including the creation of a free audio guide, a film about the artist, a feature on Google Arts & Culture, and greatly expanded public programming.” 

“Over the past decade, has prioritized funding to organizations advancing racial justice, and we are proud to continue that work with support of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s presentation of Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence”, said Justin Steele, Director of Giving for the Americas. “We recognize the importance of making information about racial equity universally accessible and felt it was imperative we support increased access for communities who otherwise might not be able to experience this incredibly important exhibition.” 

Free Weekends and Free Programming 

Thanks to’s generous support of the exhibition. The Museums will welcome all visitors free of charge for the following eight weekends:

Saturday–Sunday, March 18–19 (opening weekend)
Saturday–Sunday, April 15–16
Saturday–Sunday, May 20–21
Saturday–Sunday, June 17–18 
Saturday–Sunday, July 8–9
Saturday–Sunday, July 29–30
Saturday–Sunday, Aug. 19–20
Saturday–Sunday, Sept. 16–17 

In addition, there will be many opportunities for visitors to engage with free public programs, including an opening day talk with artist Kehinde Wiley, facilitated by the Museums’ Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming Claudia Schmuckli on Saturday March 18 from 1-2 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium at the de Young museum. An accompanying four-part conversation series will run throughout the exhibition, exploring its major themes, and connecting with current racial justice conversations.’s grant also supports a special series of workshops titled The Quiet Hours, a series of community undertakings and collective mournings, that will take place on May 27, Aug. 5, Aug. 19, and Sept. 16 in the de Young’s Piazzoni Murals Room from 1-2 p.m. Paying homage to Black funerary practices, the series will be hosted by artist and professor Angela Hennessy and poet, author, and public theologian Marvin K. White. 


A new film, supported by the grant, will premiere to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Exploring the life and work of artist Kehinde Wiley, the film, which shares a title with the exhibition, takes viewers on a journey from Wiley’s upbringing in South Central Los Angeles to his ascent as one of the world’s leading visual artists. It also features interviews with the artist, his twin brother Taiwo Wiley, and his close friend and fellow artist Mickalene Thomas. The film, directed by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Khamisi Norwood, is part of the Museums’ original documentary series “FAMSF Presents.” The film launch is scheduled for March 17 on the Museums’ YouTube channel. 

More about the Exhibition 

An Archaeology of Silence reconceptualizes the research Wiley did for his Down series, which featured 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). Holbein’s painting triggered an ongoing investigation into the iconography of death and sacrifice in Western art that Wiley traced across religious, mythological, and historical subjects. The paintings and sculptures in An Archaeology of Silence confront the legacies of colonialism through the visual language of the fallen figure. The resulting paintings of Black people struck down, wounded, resting, or dead, all referencing historical paintings of heroes, martyrs, or saints, offer a haunting meditation on the violence against Black and Brown people through European art historical references. 

An Archaeology of Silence contains some of the largest paintings and sculptures Wiley has created to date, as well as some of the smallest. The series uses scale to elevate the people depicted to heroic status, generally absent from the depictions of the recumbent or fallen figure in Western art (including those that Wiley’s works have been based on). It marks an important departure in the artist’s work which, with the notable exception of Down, has been primarily concerned with verticality and elevation, projecting Black youth into positions of power and grace by painting them into compositions inspired by canonical Western portraits such as Anthony van Dyck’s Charles I at the Hunt (1636) or Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801), among many others. 

About Kehinde Wiley 

Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977, Los Angeles) is an American artist best known for his portraits that render people of color in the traditional settings of European Old Master paintings. Wiley’s work brings art history face-to-face with contemporary culture, using the visual rhetoric of the heroic, the powerful, the majestic and the sublime to celebrate Black and Brown people the artist has met throughout the world. Working in the mediums of painting, sculpture, and video, Wiley’s portraits challenge and reorient art-historical narratives, awakening complex issues that many would prefer to remain muted. 

In 2018 Wiley became the first African American artist to paint an official US presidential portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery after former US president Barack Obama selected Wiley for this honor. In 2019, Wiley founded Black Rock Senegal, a multidisciplinary artist-in-residence program that invites artists from around the world to live and create work in Dakar, Senegal. Wiley is the recipient of the US Department of State’s Medal of Arts, Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, and France’s distinction of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. He holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, an MFA from Yale University, and honorary doctorates from the Rhode Island School of Design and San Francisco Art Institute. He has held solo exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally and his works are included in the collections of more than 50 public institutions around the world. He lives and works in Beijing, Dakar, and New York. 

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