Public work
18 June 2021–30 May 2022

Kehinde Wiley's portrait of Barack Obama goes on tour

Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s acclaimed and historically important portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama go on display in association with Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. Beginning with a five-city tour in Chicago. Inspiring unprecedented public response since their unveiling in 2018, Wiley and Sherald made history as the first African American artists to be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create official portraits of the President and the First Lady. 

In contrast to historic presidential portraiture that typically favoured classical styles and a muted colour pallet, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s contemporary renditions are notable for their direct engagement with modern appearances, aesthetics and bold colours. In Barack Obama’s portrait the President sits casually against a backdrop of foliage and flowers symbolising heritage and the official flower of Chicago, chrysanthemums. Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, depicts the former First Lady wearing a grey designer dress in front of a rich blue backdrop. As the family’s long-time home, Chicago has a unique connection to the Obamas, as does the Art Institute where these images are situated.

Tour locations

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 18 June – 15 August 2021
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, 27 August – 24 October 2021
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, 7 November 2021 – 2 January 2022
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 14 January – 13 March 2022
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, 27 March – 30 May 2022

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