The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are now on view at the Brooklyn Museum as part of a five-city tour. The likenesses — painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively — will be on display in the exhibition “The Obama Portraits” through Oct. 24 before they make their way to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the west coast.
Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the exhibition at Brooklyn Museum marks the second stop of the paintings’ cross-country journey, which started in June at the Art Institute of Chicago. Other institutions rounding out the tour are the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
“We view the country as our community,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release announcing the tour. “Since the unveiling of these two portraits of the Obamas, the Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors, not only to view these works in person, but to be part of the communal experience of a particular moment in time.”
Sajet continued: “This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people in the beauty of dialogue and shared experience.”
When the paintings of the Obamas debuted at the National Portrait Gallery in 2018, the works were met with wide acclaim (and instant viral status). Painted in striking hues, Wiley’s hyper-detailed portrait of the United States’ 44th president casts Obama against a lush backdrop of flora and fauna, while Sherald’s painting of the former first lady captures her in front of a pale blue background in a sweeping dress by Michelle Smith.
Notably, the Obamas’ selection of Wiley and Sherald to create the works designated the painters as the first Black artists to receive the Gallery’s commission for its presidential portrait collection.
“In painting these two portraits, and in close consultation with their sitters, Wiley and Sherald re-envisioned the centuries-long tradition of representing political leaders,” a press release from the Brooklyn Museum noted. “Their images of the Obamas present a striking contrast to the formality of earlier presidential portraits and images of first ladies.”
More information about reserving tickets can be found on the Brooklyn Museum website.
Top Image: Left: "Barack Obama" by Kehinde Wiley, 2018. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2018 Kehinde Wiley. Right: "Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama" by Amy Sherald, 2018. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.