Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Barack and Michelle Obama choose artists to paint their official portraits

Scott Olson via Getty Images Scott Olson via Getty Images
Edmund Wade | 17 October, 2017, 00:40

At the end of each presidency, the National Portrait Gallery partners with the White House to commission one official portrait each of the president and the first lady. In addition to the $25,000 grand prize and the opportunity to create a portrait for the gallery's permanent collection, Sherald's painting, Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance), is now part of a nationwide museum tour.

Barack and Michelle Obama hand picked the two artists who will paint the portraits that will memorialize them in perpetuity at The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and both artists are black.

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery announced Friday that it has commissioned the museum's official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sherald's portraits of African-American models are known for her use of gray skin tones.

The paintings will be unveiled in early 2018 and will enter the gallery's permanent exhibition, which includes the only complete collection of presidential portraits in the USA outside of the White House. The theatrical poses and props Wiley assigns to his subjects make references to iconic portraits of powerful figures by Western artists. Last year, she became the first African-American and first woman to win the National Portrait Gallery's Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition; she was chosen for the $25,000 award from among 2,500 entrants. Sherald received her MFA in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

The Smithsonian began commissioning the presidential portraits in the 1990s with George H.W. Bush. Currently, a diptych of the former president by Chuck Close is on view in the "America's Presidents" exhibit and will remain until the official portrait is ready. They will be paid for their commissioned paintings through private donations.

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture.

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