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Larger-than-life portrait of Artistic Director on display to mark International Women’s Day

A portrait captured after a chance meeting with well-known US artist Kehinde Wiley is set to go on display to celebrate International Women’s Day 2024.
Kehinde Wiley’s vibrant portrait of CEO and Artistic Director of Utopia Theatre, Mojisola Kareem, was created after his team approached Mojisola in Dalston Market, London; asking if she would sit for a portrait. It was the first series by Wiley to focus exclusively on women and the subjects were all people Wiley approached in East London while researching for his residency.
The larger-than-life image has been loaned by private collector, The Goldstein Family, to feature in the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery from March 8 and is likely to be in situ for around three years. Renowned for his portrait of Barack Obama, Wiley is one of the most important African American portrait artists working today. Wiley originally made Kareem’s portrait for his Yellow Wallpaper series at the William Morris Gallery in London, painting her equal in scale to the other monumental portraits in this gallery.
Mojisola Kareem, CEO and Artistic Director at Sheffield-based Utopia Theatre, said:
"Being depicted on a large-scale by an artist of Kehinde Wiley’s experience and calibre was incredibly validating and exciting. It was a unique opportunity that left me feeling proud and grateful.
Experiencing his artistic process firsthand was a joy, and he demystified the role of an artist and celebrity, showing a genuine, human presence. Sitting for him was a pleasure, as he explained the reasons behind every instruction and movement. Seeing the end result months later was one of the best birthday presents I have ever received.
Now to be part of this exhibition in Bristol is truly humbling and I hope that it showcases to everybody that anything is possible if you approach life with a positive and ambitious frame of mind. We’re continually breaking down barriers at Utopia Theatre so that arts and culture can be accessed by many more people and I hope that this exhibition does the same."
Utopia Theatre, an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation, stages contemporary productions nationally and internationally. Kareem is passionate about empowering and engaging African communities, supporting emerging artists and inspiring the next generation.
Frances Coles, Acting head of collections at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, said:
"The Enlightenment Gallery is a complex space, which includes paintings that make reference to the traffic in enslaved Africans, to colonialism but also to historic diversity in Britain.Wiley’s portrait of Kareem will form a dynamic intervention within the collection and bring a contemporary and transatlantic perspective to the gallery, while also, on International Women’s Day, celebrating Mojisola’s immense achievements. We’re incredibly proud to be able to have this amazing portrait adorn our gallery walls."