The nation’s first Black president and first lady chose two contemporary Black painters, each renowned for depicting Black subjects with singularity and stateliness, to create their official portraits for the National Portrait Gallery.
The Smithsonian Institute announced last Friday (October 13) that it commissioned portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama from Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively. The Smithsonian’s announcement notes that the former first couple chose the artists themselves. The portraits will be featured in the museum’s permanent gallery of presidents and first ladies of the United States, and will go on display in early 2018.
Wiley is best known for his portraits of Black celebrities and civilians that, according to the Smithsonian’s announcement, incorporate ”theatrical poses and props” that ”make references to iconic portraits of powerful figures by Western artists.” Here are a few portraits that exhibit this style:
A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on Apr 1, 2014 at 1:52pm PDT
A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on May 19, 2014 at 12:25pm PDT
Modern Kings Series photographic portrait of sports prodigy Carmelo Anthony. A true American icon. Big thanks to Grey Goose for an amazing project! @carmeloanthony #fruitofkings @greygoose #wunderkind #modernkings
A post shared by Kehinde Wiley (@kehindewiley) on Jul 16, 2014 at 10:11am PDT
Sherald won first place in the gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition for her 2013 work, “Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance).” The Smithsonian’s announcement notes that “Sherald challenges stereotypes and probes notions of identity through her life-size paintings of African Americans.” Here are a few paintings that are indicative of her portrait style:
A post shared by Amy Sherald (@asherald) on Mar 1, 2017 at 8:00am PST
A post shared by Amy Sherald (@asherald) on Mar 1, 2017 at 7:57am PST
A post shared by Amy Sherald (@asherald) on Oct 16, 2017 at 11:55am PDT