Hyper realist artist puts black trailblazers in the spotlight on shop front


HYPER REALIST artist Kelvin Okafor is exhibiting his photo-like portraits of black trailblazers in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, on giant digital public art platform W1 Curates on the front of the luxury retailer Flannels flagship store in central London from July 27 to August 9.      

The award-winning artist felt moved to showcase his portraits of influential black individuals as a tribute.

Kelvin Okafor with model Winnie Harlow portrait

The portraits feature across three storeys on the shop front on Oxford Street, London, one of the world’s biggest permanent digital public art installations.  

His exhibited portraits include the UK’s first black MP and race equality campaigner, the late Bernie Grant, those breaking the mould like Barack Obama, model Winnie Harlow and the late Nelson Mandela, and trailblazers including Beyonce, Prince, Idris Elba, Tinie Tempah, Naomi Campbell, Lauryn Hill and human rights activist and musician Fela Kuti.

He is also featuring a self-portrait, family members and other high-profile individuals.  

Artist Kelvin Okafor said: “I wanted to showcase these individuals who have had the courage to do things differently, and have all contributed to society in ways that have offered inspiration and a fresh perspective on how black people are seen.

Barack Obama portrait 

“They have all been a major influence and inspiration to me, and shaped my journey in art, spirituality and philosophy.”  

Kelvin’s incredibly detailed portraits are often mistaken for photographs, and are created using mainly pencil and charcoal.

He is known to spend between 200 and 300 hours on his portraits, and the scale of the screens will highlight his extraordinary attention to detail. He hopes the display will inspire fellow artists and make art more accessible.   

Other top artists to exhibit on the innovative digital public art platform have included David Bailey, David LaChapelle, Michael Craig-Marin and Ian Davenport.

Kelvin Okafor with MP Bernie Grant portrait

Kelvin comments: “To have my work displayed on such a large scale in central London with W1 Curates, means so much to me. As a child growing up in London it was such an exciting experience to go to Oxford Street.

“It is one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets and I would visit regularly to see department stores and marvel at the ambience. As an artist who has always been inspired to draw portraits of people, Oxford Street felt like heaven as around half a million people would visit daily from all different cultural backgrounds, so it’s an honour to have my work showcased there.”  

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