Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled the portraits that will hang in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will receive the portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama.
As dozens like Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder gathered to watch the event where Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley would show the world their work that will be featured in the museum, Michelle and Barack accompanied both artists to see their portraits unveil.
Michelle, who was painted seated in a dress designed by Michelle Smith’s label Milly, shook her head in amazement and said to be “humbled, honored, proud, but most of all so incredibly grateful to all the people who came before me in this journey.”
The former Fist Lady continued saying she is “thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institute.”
As for Barack, the painting is a work from Kehinde Wiley—best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans.
When Wiley unveiled the former President´s painting, the crowd stood in awe as Barack said “How about that? That’s pretty sharp” while he admired the work.
Barack then passed to thank Amy Sherald, saying “Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace, and beauty, and intelligence, and charm, and hotness of the woman that I love”.
As for Wiley, he gave an emotional speech where he talked of growing up in South Central Los Angeles and visiting museums where he was one of the few African Americans strolling through galleries. He reflected on the history of the moment, as the first African American artist to paint the first African American president saying “It doesn’t get any better than that”.
According to Variety, “the portrait gallery began collecting portraits of past presidents when it opened in 1968, and began commissioning works in 1994, with former President George H.W. Bush. It started commissioning portraits of former first ladies in 2006, with a portrait of Hillary Clinton.”
The Obamas selected the artists from a group of names submitted by the National Portrait Galley.
Click here to relive other portraits of former U.S. Presidents.
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Today, @KehindeWiley and @ASherald became the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian. To call this experience humbling would be an understatement. Thanks to Kehinde and Amy, generations of Americans — and young people from all around the world — will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this country through a new lens. They’ll walk out of that museum with a better sense of the America we all love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Inclusive and optimistic. And I hope they’ll walk out more empowered to go and change their worlds.
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As a young girl, even in my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined this moment. Nobody in my family has ever had a portrait – there are no portraits of the Robinsons or the Shields from the South Side of Chicago. This is all a little bit overwhelming, especially when I think about all of the young people who will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this, including so many young girls and young girls of color who don’t often see their images displayed in beautiful and iconic ways. I am so proud to help make that kind of history. But the fact is that none of this would be possible without the extraordinary artist and woman behind this portrait, @asherald. Thank you, Amy – it was a joy to work with you and get to know you.