On Friday, artist Kehinde Wiley unveiled his newest sculpture to the unsuspecting crowds of New York’s Times Square.
The monumental public sculpture, titled Rumors of War, depicts a young African American man wearing a hoodie and sneakers astride a horse frozen in a battle pose. The artist gathered inspiration for the piece after a visit to Richmond, Virginia three years ago. During his visit Wiley walked down the city’s Monument Avenue, a street lined with Confederate statues. Rumors of War responds to these Confederate monuments by drawing attention to the role of monuments in perpetuating inequality and by repositioning the image of young Black men in public consciousness. The artist described the piece as an attempt to “use the language of equestrian portraiture to both embrace and subsume the fetishization of state violence.”
Visitors can view Rumors of War in Times Square until December. The statue will then move to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, which had acquired the work after a unanimous vote by the museum’s board. The sculpture will be permanently installed at the museum’s entrance. VMFA curator of modern and contemporary art Valerie Cassel Oliver said of this permanent placement, “It really signals our way of saying that we are a space for everyone. We’re a space where new narratives are being created, and it will stand as an iconic image for the museum moving forward.”