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Artist Kehinde Wiley Explains Why Empire Is So Successful

Sep 21, 2015

When one of Empire's masterminds, creator and director Lee Daniels, asked New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley to be a part of the show, he added—according to Wiley—"[The show] will either be the hugest success or the biggest car wreck known to man."

And we all know how that turned out. Empire was one of the highest-rated shows on television last season, edged out in its demographic only by Monday Night Football. And its season 2 premiere is highly anticipated. The show stars Terrence Howard as the head of Empire Entertainment and Taraji P. Henson as his ex-wife newly released from prison. Together—and sometimes in opposition to each other—they work to make the record label the stuff of legend.

Kehinde Wiley's art—colorful, bold and attention-grabbing—graces the walls of the Empire set, earning him a growing following on social media.

"I get tons and tons of comments from people who knew nothing about my work, much less the work of some of my peers, " he said, "and by virtue of this little television show, it's starting to change the conversation."

Wiley believes Empire is a reflection of America. "It's music, it's panache, it's love of art and bling. America is Empire. The surprise was that Empire is also seeded with levels of complexity that people had not expected."

Watch the video above to see why Wiley thinks Empire is blowing up.

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