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Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools) (2017)

Kehinde Wiley

three-channel digital film installation

The Box, Plymouth

© Kehinde Wiley. Photo credit: Mark Blower



Film Installation, Moving Image


Digital film, 16mm film

Physical Object Description:

Three-channel digital film showing men swimming in the water and and at the shores of a beach.


16:40 minutes


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through the Collections Fund at Frieze, 2018/19

Ownership history:

Purchased from the Stephen Friedman Gallery, London by the Contemporary Art Society through its Collections Fund at Frieze, 19 September 2018; presented to Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, now The Box, October 2018
Kehinde Wiley was chosen by Barack Obama in 2017 to paint the President’s portrait. Appropriating recognisable Old Master subjects, Wiley’s larger-than-life figures disturb and interrupt tropes of portrait painting, blurring the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. Adopting the traditional format of portraiture, but with largely urban subjects, Wiley engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful and sublime in his representation of African-American men.

Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools), 2017 by Kehinde Wiley is a three-screen digital film projection that produces an immersive experience for the viewer. Using Sebastian Brant's 1494 satirical allegory as a springboard, Wiley’s film is an emotionally affecting and visually compelling portrait of a group of black men at sea, capturing the full spectrum of the human condition. The film, which features an original score by composer Maxim Budnick, is narrated by acclaimed actress C.C.H. Pounder who reads from Michel Foucault’s ‘Madness and Civilization’ and Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. The figures appear at one with the ocean, an enduring relationship throughout history, whilst suggesting wider concerns of international territories and governance. The film was presented at Frieze London (2018).

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