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Famed Obama portraits coming to Brooklyn Museum

July 29, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The groundbreaking portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama — painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively — will go on view at the Brooklyn Museum this August in the paintings’ only Northeastern stop on their five-city tour, organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Transforming traditions of American presidential portraiture, the paintings document two unprecedented occasions: the election of the first Black president of the United States, and the selection of the first Black artists to receive the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s commission for portraits of a president or first lady.

Their images of the Obamas present a striking contrast to the formality of earlier presidential portraits and images of first ladies. Before photography, these older portraits often served as the primary image of a president. Today, our presidents and first ladies are constantly in the spotlight, and their images are ubiquitous.

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Visitors will be encouraged to draw comparisons with other works on view throughout the museum’s collection galleries, including Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (1796) and Wiley’s Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005), as well as examples in our Ancient Egyptian Art, Arts of Asia, and Decorative Arts galleries.

Through the presentation of these now-iconic works by Wiley and Sherald, as well as others across the museum’s collection galleries, the exhibition contemplates how portraiture has given visual form to ideas of power, identity, status, and legacy throughout history.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama, as painted by Amy Sherald. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

The Obama Portraits Tour will be on view for just eight weeks, from August 27 to October 24, 2021. Access to the exhibition is not included with a general admission ticket and requires a separate exhibition ticket, which must be reserved in advance online. To reserve a date and time, visit https://my.brooklynmuseum.org/. The Obama Portraits tickets include general admission to the museum.

There will be several related events, such as a talk on “The Sartorial Vision of Michelle Obama” on Thursday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m., featuring Ms. Obama’s stylist Meredith Koop and fashion historian Kimberly Jenkins; a “Drink and Draw: The Obama Portraits” event in the museum’s Biergarten on Thursday, Sept. 16 between 7 and 9 p.m.; and an “Art History Happy Tour: The Obama Portraits on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m., which includes a wine tasting and small bites as well as after-hours admission to the portraits and a curator talk.

There will also be educational offerings for children and teens. More information about these can be found on the museum’s website.

Other tour locations for the portraits include the Art Institute of Chicago (June 18–August 15, 2021), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (November 7, 2021–January 2, 2022), High Museum of Art, Atlanta (January 14–March 13, 2022), and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (March 25–May 30, 2022).

The Brooklyn presentation is curated by Jane Dini, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Curator, American Art; and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, with Joseph Shaikewitz, Curatorial Assistant, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum.


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  1. cathylovesyou

    If someone buys one of President Obama’s paintings will we know the person and price? Joe seems to be suspect for most of his career starting in High School, maybe some rubbed off. Hello Hunter