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Brooklyn Museum exhibit closing soon: The Obama Portraits Tour

October 8, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On October 24, the groundbreaking portraits of President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama — painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively — leave the Brooklyn Museum, 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.

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. 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.

The Obama Portraits exhibition reflects the Brooklyn Museum’s own rich history of exploring ideas of portraiture, iconography, and representation of power across time and cultures. Visitors will be encouraged to explore those themes by drawing 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.

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Brooklyn Talks: Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley
Thursday, October 14, 2021
7 – 9 pm
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor

In honor of the Obama portraits’ first visit to Brooklyn, get a behind-the-scenes look at their creation with official presidential portrait artists Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley. Doreen St. Felix moderates a conversation in which the two reflect on the impact of their culture-shifting portraits and discuss their unique, collaborative approaches to representing the first African American President and First Lady. Sherald and Wiley will also talk about their canon-expanding practices. 

Join us in person or on Zoom. In-person tickets are $25 and include after-hours admission to The Obama Portraits Tour. Member tickets are $20. Tickets to access the event live on Zoom are $5 for the general public and free for Members.

Reserve your tickets to Brooklyn Talks: Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley here.


About The Obama Portraits Tour:
The five-city tour travels the United States from June 2021 through May 2022 and is expected to reach millions of people. Other tour locations 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 Obama Portraits Tour is accompanied by a richly illustrated book published by National Portrait Gallery and Princeton University Press.

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