The Obamas Just Made History with Their Presidential Portrait Picks
The former POTUS tapped renowned artist Kehinde Wiley, while the former FLOTUS went with an artist on the rise, choosing up-and-coming Amy Sherald to paint her portrait, the Smithsonian announced Monday. The politicos' selections marks the first time the Smithsonian has hired black artists to create a portrait of a former president since they started commissioning portraits in 1994, according to Rolling Stone.
Known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans, Wiley has often portrayed young African American men wearing the latest in hip-hop street fashion, the Smithsonian reported. Meanwhile, Sherald's work has been known to challenge stereotypes and delve into identity issues through her life-size paintings of African Americans.
"The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former President and First Lady," Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement. "Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century."
While they are not the first ever to paint presidential portraits (the White House commissioned black artist, Simmie Knox, to paint the Clintons in 2000), their selection still makes history.
The portraits will be unveiled at the museum in early 2018.