Artist Kehinde Wiley Unveils Portrait of Carmelo Anthony

Courtesy of Harrison & Shriftman or Grey Goose
Kehinde Wiley and Randy Jackson

The art piece, revealed at an intimate fete earlier this week, sees the Knicks superstar standing before a moody background, leaning on a sword.

Sports and art don’t make as strange bedfellows as it seems, according to Carmelo Anthony and artist Kehinde Wiley.

The duo literally unveiled — black curtain and all — Wiley’s portrait of the recently re-signed New York Knicks superstar at an intimate fete at the Sunset Tower Hotel on Tuesday evening.

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“What Kehinde was able to do from an artist’s standpoint — his creativity — and what I’m capable of doing on the court, it goes hand in hand,” the towering Anthony, who recently signed a 5-year, $124 million contract to return to the Knicks, explained to The Hollywood Reporter. “Your talent takes you to a certain level, then your creativity and your skill set take you over the top, and that’s the similarities between being an artist or being an athlete or being a musician or a fashion designer — it always comes down to that creativity.”

In the portrait, Anthony stands triumphantly before a moody, verdant background, leaning on a sword. “We found a place in upstate New York that forges all the movie props,” Wiley told THR.

The photograph fits in neatly with what has made Wiley a modern-day master, painting mainly young black men in exalted states, using the epic vernacular of Renaissance and Romantic painters. Wiley was commissioned by Grey Goose to create portraits of three “Modern Kings of Culture” in film, music and sports. He previously revealed images of Spike Lee and Swizz Beatz.

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“Let’s face it: Sports is a metaphor for war,” Wiley said during a short Q&A moderated by Maximillian Chow of Mr Chow. “In civilized society, in the best of circumstances, we kick balls metaphorically as opposed to lobbing bombs, and I think that Carmelo, as one of the ‘Kings of Culture,’ stands for one of those great moments where we can say that [basketball] not only is a graceful art form — physically and aesthetically — but it’s also something that we can feel proud of as a society.”

Asked whether he was a sporting type, Wiley paused and took a drink. “I’ve done sports,” he said to laughs. “You know quickly what you’re good at.”

Posed the inverse of the question, Anthony replied, “I done dabbled here and there, just messing around. I like to see how tough it is to get into that creative mode with art. In sports, too, you’ve got to get into that creative mode.”

After the panel, Wiley and Anthony were joined by Randy Jackson; Tina Knowles; Kelly Rowland and her husband, Tim Witherspoon; L.A. Clippers player Matt Barnes and his wife, Gloria Govan (Basketball Wives); and United States men’s soccer player Jermaine Jones for a dinner of filet mignon and truffle fries or grilled salmon by the Sunset Tower’s pool. Expectant mother Rowland listened to advice from Govan, mother of twins, while retired boxing star Witherspoon regaled the guests with tales of visiting the Shambala Private Game Reserve in South Africa, where he and Rowland had close encounters with lions and elephants.

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The cocktails were appropriately Melo-like, featuring Grey Goose’s new Le Melon infused vodka, which is flavored by the Cavaillon melon, a coveted variety grown in the south of France said to be a favorite food of artist Paul Cezanne and author Alexandre Dumas.

Wiley will have a show of his recent work in Haiti at Roberts & Tilton, and he’ll be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York in 2015.