Visual Culture

The official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

Artsy Editors
Feb 12, 2018 3:00PM, via Artsy

The official portraits of former United States President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at an emotional and historic ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. on Monday morning. The stunning depiction of President Obama, by artist Kehinde Wiley, and of his wife, by Amy Sherald, drew gasps and applause as each subject and artist together removed the black veils covering the portraits for a dramatic reveal. Wiley’s portrait shows a seated and solemn Obama leaning forward as if in conversation, his arms crossed, against a background of dense and verdant foliage. Sherald portrayed the First Lady in the artist’s characteristic grey skin tones, wearing a mostly black and white gown by the designer Michelle Smith. “I am thrilled to welcome Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald into our collection,” said director Kim Sajet, who praised them for “taking the best of portraiture traditions and adding a fresh layer.” The two works will go on public view Tuesday at the National Portrait Gallery, which holds roughly 1,600 other likenesses of former presidents in its collection—though few are as expressive as those of the 44th president and the first lady.

Artsy Editors
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019