Previous Galas


The National Portrait Gallery held its second American Portrait Gala Sunday, Nov. 19, raising $1 million in support of the museum’s compelling exhibition programming. The event honored former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine K. Albright; medical doctor and HIV/AIDS researcher David D. Ho, M.D.; artistic director, choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones; film director, producer, writer and actor Spike Lee; and multi-award-winning actress Rita Moreno, all of whom have portraits in the museum’s collection and have made significant contributions to the nation’s shared history, development and culture. The year’s five honorees were awarded Portrait of a Nation Prizes for their exemplary accomplishments in fields as diverse as politics and diplomacy, science and arts and entertainment, and for their advocacy of human rights.

The dinner was hosted in the museum’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, a signature element of the renovated National Historic Landmark Building shared by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Under the glass canopy of the acclaimed Foster+Partners-designed courtyard, guests enjoyed the presentation of the “Portrait of a Nation” Prize: Robert Redford, award-winning actor, director, producer and environmentalist, presented to Albright; Gerald H. Friedland, M.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health, director emeritus, AIDS Program, School of Medicine, Yale University, to Ho; Glenn Ligon, artist, to Jones; Patrick Ewing, basketball Hall-of-Famer, to Lee; and Andrea Mitchell, NBC News and MSNBC journalist, to Moreno. The evening culminated with a musical performance by four-time Grammy Award-winning artist Esperanza Spalding.


The museum held its inaugural American Portrait Gala on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, raising more than $1.74 million, which directly benefited the museum’s exhibition programming. The event honored Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron, U.S. Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, singer and musician Aretha Franklin, fashion designer Carolina Herrera and designer and artist Maya Lin, all of whose portraits are in the museum’s collection. The honorees were awarded the Portrait of a Nation Prize for their exemplary accomplishments in the arts, business, entertainment, military service, sports and their commitments to service.

The evening began with a cocktail hour and dinner in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard. During dinner, guests enjoyed the presentation of the “Portrait of a Nation” Prize: actor/filmmaker Lee Daniels presented to Herrera, Gen. Joseph Dunford to Carpenter, Congressman John Lewis to Aaron, former Attorney General Eric Holder to Franklin and architect David Adjaye to Lin. The evening culminated with dessert and a musical performance by Franklin, who performed several hits, including “RESPECT,” “Freedom” and “Chain of Fools.”