• Mariah Reeve

Obama Portraits revealed


On Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at the National Portrait Gallery, the official presidential likenesses of Barack Obama and the former first lady, Michelle Obama were unveiled.

Most of the time, this event would be barely noticed in the world of politics and art. The Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, owns the only accessible complete collection of presidential likenesses. It is a tradition that after a president's term the Smithsonian installs a portrait of him.

Kehinde Wiley was chosen to paint Barack Obama’s portrait, and Amy Sherald was chosen for Michelle Obama's; like the former president and first lady, they are African-American. "Mr. Wiley depicts Mr. Obama not as a self-assured, standard-issue bureaucrat, but as an alert and troubled thinker. Ms. Sherald’s image of Mrs. Obama overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool," according to the New York Times.​​

The National Portrait Gallery collection was created by an Act of Congress in 1962 and was opened to the public in 1968. When the gallery first began collecting the presidential portraits, they were housed in another building.

At just a little bit over seven feet tall, Wiley presents Barack Obama dressed in the "regulation black suit and an open-necked white shirt," and seated on a "throne-like chair." He sits forward on the chair, frowning, with his elbows on his knees and his arms crossed.

Sherald shows Michelle Obama sitting against a blue field, wearing a spreading gown. "The shape of the dress, rising pyramidally upward, mountain-like, feels as if it were the real subject of the portrait."

Barrack Obama's portrait will e permanently placed alongside the other presidents, while Michelle Obama's will be placed in the corridor and will stay there until November.

If first men have an acknowledged showcase, then the first ladies should too. Better, they should all be together offering a welcoming environment to.A future first female president, would create the lasting movements to #MeToo.