Note: The museum’s official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama will be off view beginning in May, 2021. Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of the former First Lady have inspired an unprecedented response from the public, and will be featured in The Obama Portraits Tour, organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The tour will travel to five cities across the U.S. from June 2021 through May 2022 and is expected to reach millions of people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to view these remarkable paintings.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled its commissioned portraits of former President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively. The artworks were revealed in a private ceremony in the museum’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard as part of the Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary celebrations. President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks as did Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton, National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet and artists Wiley and Sherald.
“For 50 years, the National Portrait Gallery has told the story of America through the people who have impacted this country’s history and culture,” Sajet said. “We are thrilled to present to the nation these remarkable portraits of our 44th president, Barack Obama, and former First Lady, Michelle Obama, painted by two of the country’s most dynamic contemporary artists, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. As a museum of history and art, we have learned over the past half-century that the best portraiture has the power to bring world leaders into dialogue with everyday Americans. These two paintings fall into that category, and we believe they will serve as an inspiration for generations to come.”
Before President Obama’s departure from office, he and Mrs. Obama selected Wiley and Sherald to paint their likenesses for the Portrait Gallery’s collection. This is the first time that African American artists have been commissioned for the National Portrait Gallery’s official portraits of a President or First Lady.