Barack and Michelle Obama commission Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald for Smithsonian history

  /  10.16.2017

Barack Obama has enlisted famed portraitist Kehinde Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, the Smithsonian has announced. Known for his colorful, large-size portraits of young black men in à la mode hip-hop fashion, the world-renowned Wiley was commissioned by the former president to paint his portrait for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Previous subjects of Riley’s much-acclaimed works include LL Cool J, Ice T, the Notorious B.I.G., Michael Jackson, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Big Daddy Kane, and more.

The National Portrait Gallery partners with the White House at the end of each presidency to commission an official portrait of the president and the first lady. This became a tradition following the presidential term of George H.W. Bush.

In addition to Wiley’s Obama portrait, former First Lady Michelle Obama will receive an official portrait by talented Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, whose work is known for her use of gray skin tones. She’s already made history, winning the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition last year, becoming the first African-American and first woman to do so.

Together, Wiley and Sherald are the first black artists enlisted to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian. These works will be unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in early 2018 and added to the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.


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