Artist Joseph Awuah-Darko Accuses Kehinde Wiley of Sexual Assault

British-born, Ghana-based artist Joseph Awuah-Darko accused star artist Kehinde Wiley of sexual assault in an Instagram post published Sunday and said that he is seeking “legal action.” On his own Instagram, Wiley denied the allegations.

In the post, Awuah-Darko claimed that, on June 9, 2021, Wiley sexually assaulted him twice during a dinner held in his honor by Ghana’s Creative Art Council at the Noldor Artist Residency.

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“On 9th June 2021 – I was sexually assaulted by @kehindewiley. It almost destroyed me,” Awuah-Darko wrote. “I hope my words and opennness about my painful experience empower others to come forward. I hope all that unravels creates a path towards not only accountability but recompense and collective healing for other victims.”

In the post, Awuah-Darko claimed that Wiley “inappropriately groped” him first, grabbing his buttocks. He then alluded to a “much more severe and violent” assault later in the night, though he did not provide details for that alleged incident. Awuah-Darko instead noted that he had difficulty confronting the alleged assault due to Wiley’s status as a gay man and because of prevalent anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment in Ghana.

“I am actively seeking legal action and hope that speaking about my abuse will empower other victims to do the same,” Awuah-Darko told ARTnews in a direct message on Instagram Sunday.

Not long after Awuah-Darko’s post went live, Wiley responded with a post of his own calling the relationship “consensual.” In a longer emailed statement to ARTnews, Wiley said the claims were “deeply hurtful” and that he would “pursue all legal options to bring the truth to light.”

“Someone I had a brief, consensual relationship with is now making false, disturbing, and defamatory accusations about our time together,” Wiley said. “These claims are deeply hurtful to me, and I will pursue all legal options to bring the truth to light and clear my name. These claims are also a slap in the face for all victims of sexual abuse. I have no idea why this individual has decided to target me this way, particularly since he has been trying to be part of my life ever since we met – flying to Nigeria to attend my birthday party, attempting to visit my home in upstate in New York, sending me warm and cordial text messages, and almost a year-ago to the day attending my exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and posting to Instagram that the show by his ‘dear friend’ was ‘breathtaking.’ He has posted extensively on Instagram about his struggles with mental illness and I hope he gets help with whatever he is going through. I will vigorously defend my name and reputation.”

On Sunday afternoon, Awuah-Darko responded to Wiley’s statement in a direct message to ARTnews, asserting the artist’s characterization of their relationship was not contradictory to claims of sexual assault.

“Reconciling with the painful reality of Kehinde’s assault against me was something that I only accepted in late October 2023, when I confided in one of my best friends, who is a gallerist. That is how recent my acceptance of my assault was and after years of therapy over time,” Awuah-Darko wrote. “My relationship with Kehinde in months and moments prior to my epiphany of the abuse I experienced under his hand, would have been friendly and even cordial; whether it was the birthday party he invited me to or discussions about the possibility of meeting. Much like his OTHER VICTIMS. I think it is important to constantly challenge the misconception that a sexual predator is a complete stranger. There is evidence to show that almost over 90% of sexual abuse cases reported are those where victims know the predator intimately or as family or a friend. I am of sound mind and stand by the integrity of statement today.” (RAINN, a nonprofit focused on fighting sexual assault, has estimated that figure at 80 percent.)

In March, Awuah-Darko referenced an experience with sexual assault by “someone who outranks me” in a post on Instagram, though he did not name Wiley at the time. In the post, Awuah-Darko asked for contributions for “projected legal fees,” with a target of $200,000.

The Noldor Artist Residency’s Instagram page includes a post from June 9, 2021 noting the dinner referenced in Awuah-Darko’s post.

The residency program, the first of its kind in Ghana, was founded by Awuah-Darko in November 2020 to provide emerging African artists with a dedicated studio space and a four-week retreat in Accra. The residency has since evolved into a museum, the Institute Museum of Ghana.

Awuah-Darko is an artist, musician, and curator, as well as a collector of contemporary African and diaspora art, much of which he has donated to the Institute Museum to jumpstart its collection. He has shown work with Gallery 1957 and curated a non-selling exhibition last year in partnership with Sotheby’s and the Olym Collection in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Awuah-Darkos are one of the wealthiest families in Ghana, according to GhanaWeb, with a reputed net worth of $650 million.

Wiley, who was born in Los Angeles and is now based in New York, is well-known for his portraits of Black men and women done in the style of Old Masters paintings. He famously painted the official portrait of Barack Obama, and has received many institutional surveys.

Sean Kelly and Roberts Projects, who both represent Wiley, did not respond to a request for comment. Black Rock Senegal, the organization that he founded, declined to comment.

Update, 5/19/24, 1:55 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a longer statement from Awuah-Darko responding to Wiley’s comments.

Update, 5/19/2024, 1 p.m.: This article has been updated with a longer statement by Wiley provided directly to ARTnews.

Source: artnews.com

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