The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, unveiled this morning its commissioned portraits of former president Barack Obama and former first lady 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 gallery’s fiftieth-anniversary celebrations.
Wiley and Sherald are the first African American artists to have been commissioned for the National Portrait Gallery’s official portraits of a president or first lady. The paintings will be on view beginning Tuesday, February 13. Wiley’s painting will be permanently installed in the gallery’s “America’s Presidents” exhibition on the museum’s second floor. Sherald’s work will be on view in the museum’s “Recent Acquisitions” corridor through early November.
“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,” director Kim Sajet said. “These two paintings fall into that category, and we believe they will serve as an inspiration for generations to come.”