The portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will go on a nationwide tour in 2021 that will stop in five different cities.
In a press release, the National Portrait Gallery noted the fame of the paintings, writing, “From the moment of their unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in February 2018, the museum’s official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama have become iconic.”
The tour will begin in June 2021 and last until May of 2022.
Here’s the schedule:
- Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago—June 18, 2021–Aug. 15, 2021
- Brooklyn Museum; Brooklyn, New York—Aug. 27, 2021–Oct. 24, 2021
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Los Angeles—Nov. 5, 2021–Jan. 2, 2022
- High Museum of Art; Atlanta—Jan. 14, 2022–March 13, 2022
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston—March 25, 2022–May 30, 2022
In a statement, the gallery’s director, Kim Sajet, said, “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.”
The Smithsonian even produced a video to accompany the announcement.
When they were unveiled, the Obama portraits instantly became a topic of conversation. Presidential portraits typically feature the leader against a serious background but the Obama portraits were colorful and looked completely different than any of their predecessors.
At the time that the portraits were unveiled, Obama praised the artists, writing, “Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald became the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian. To call this experience humbling would be an understatement.”
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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.
The portraits were also widely praised. Even the conservative magazine National Review ran a piece titled “The Uncommonly Good Obama Portraits.” The portrait gallery told The Washington Post that they received 72,100 visitors in the first week that the portraits were on display.