The Barack And Michelle Obama Portraits Are Going On Tour
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The Barack And Michelle Obama Portraits Are Going On Tour

Obama portraits tour
(L): “Barack Obama” by Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas, 2018 (R): “Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama” by Amy Sherald, oil on linen, 2018.

The Obamas are going on the road! Well, at least their portraits are. 

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announced the launch of The Obama Portraits Tour, which is kicking off June 18, 2021, and will run until May 30, 2022. The paintings are currently in Washington, D.C. and will make appearances at the Art Institute of Chicago (June 18–Aug. 15, 2021) and then to the Brooklyn Museum (Aug. 27–Oct. 24, 2021), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Nov. 5–Jan. 2, 2022), the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (Jan. 14–March 13, 2022), and ending at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (March 25–May 30, 2022).

According to the Smithsonian, “In addition to the artworks themselves, The Obama Portraits will feature audio-visual elements, Portrait Gallery-led teacher workshops, curatorial presentations, and a richly illustrated book (National Portrait Gallery and Princeton University Press). This special presentation will enhance the conversations surrounding the power of portraiture and its potential to engage communities.”

Artist Kehinde Wiley was handpicked to paint the portrait of former President Barack Obama while Amy Sherald was tapped to paint former first lady Michelle Obama. Wiley and Sherald are the first African American artists to have been selected for the National Portrait Gallery’s official portraits of a president or first lady.

“We wanted to be sure we shared the portraits with diverse audiences across the country, […] especially young people,” Dorothy Moss, the gallery’s curator of painting and sculpture tells Smithsonian Magazine. “The Obamas really wanted these portraits to be for future generations.”

“We view the country as our community,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, in a statement. “Since the unveiling of these two portraits of the Obamas, the Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors, not only to view these works in person but to be part of the communal experience of a particular moment in time. This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people in the beauty of dialogue and shared experience.”


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