The Obamas Choose Artist Kehinde Wiley To Paint Their Official Presidential Portrait

Peter Castro
October 17, 2017

Sherald, from Baltimore, Md., is known for painting surreal portraits of elegant black women.

Along with Sherald, Artist Kehinde Wiley was selected by former President Barack Obama to create his portrait.

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery made the announcement yesterday that former president Barack Obama wants Kehinde Wiley to paint his official portrait.

Wiley is widely known for his portraits of young Black men donning the latest street fashion. Sherald won a National Portrait Gallery portrait prize a year ago, and has a portrait in the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture titled "Grand Dame Queenie". The theatrical poses and props Wiley assigns to his subjects make references to iconic portraits of powerful figures by Western artists.

Sherald, a native of Columbus, Georgia, was recently awarded the Geneviève McMillan/Reba Stewart Chair in Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Sherald's selection is also perhaps not such a surprising one, given her signature body of work depicting her subjects, mostly black men and women, in grey scale contrasted with colorful backgrounds.

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The Obamas may no longer be in the White House, but their official portraits are soon to live there forever.

The Smithsonian began commissioning the presidential portraits in the 1990s with George H.W. Bush.

The museum is the only place, other than the White House, where visitors can view a complete collection of presidential portraits. They will be paid for their commissioned paintings through private donations.

In 2008, Mr Wiley said he would "love" to produce Mr Obama's official portrait.

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture.

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