The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington. A United States tradition for most former presidents all of whom currently have their portraits hanging up in the museum.
The Obamas’ portraits had to have been one of the most anticipated presidential portrait unveilings to date. After looking through dozens of portfolios of artist the Obamas’ decided on two African American artist, both are the first African-American artist to execute an official presidential portrait and include it in the National Portrait Gallery. Barack chose Kehinde Wiley, a Yale University painter often known for his style in regal paintings with pops of color. Michelle chose Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, often known for her unique style and themes of social justice.
These two artist have turned this traditional installation into a unique presentation truly for the culture and have represented the Obamas’ in a honorable manor. Obama’s portrait will hang in the hall of the presidents and the former first lady’s will be placed in another gallery.
Michelle spoke on her personal connection with the piece:
“As I look at this portrait, I’m a little overwhelmed. I’m humbled, honored, proud,” she said, “but most of all, I’m so incredibly grateful to all those who came before me in this journey.
“I’m also thinking of all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who … will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution,” she said. “I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives, because I was one of those girls.”
Former president Obama spoke on his personal connection with the piece:
“What I saw when I saw his portraits — they always challenged the way we view power, wealth, privilege, grace, destiny, and beauty of so many who are invisible in our lives,” he said. “People in our families, people who built this country, built this capital, served food, took out the garbage.”
“They can be lifted up, given a platform, and that they belong in the center of American life,” he added. “In my small way, I believe that is what politics should be about— not just celebrate the high and mighty.”
The portraits will be available for public viewing on February 13 in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.