YOU CAN SKIP first 6 minutes of the video above.
Watch Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits be unveiled in Washington, D.C. Artist Kehinde Wiley’s painting of the president will become part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent “America’s Presidents” exhibition, and artist Amy Sherald’s image of the former first lady will be on view at the gallery through early November. #NPG
Brand new portraits of former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama — wearing matching calm, strong expressions — were revealed on Monday at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Kehinde Wiley painted Barack Obama sitting in a chair, elbows in his knees, leaning forward with an intense expression. The background, typical of a Wiley painting, is a riotous pattern of intense greens.
"Pretty sharp," Obama said with a grin.
Amy Sherald, a Baltimore-based artist, painted Michelle Obama sitting in a floor-length gown, chin on her hand, looking directly at the viewer with a calm, level gaze.
The paintings, like the presidency they honor, are a historic first. Wiley and Sherald — both already famous for their portraits of black Americans — are the first black painters to receive a presidential portrait commission from the museum.
Celebrities from Shonda Rimes to Steven Spielberg, former administration officials from Josh Earnest to Eric Holder, and members of the media filed into the Portrait Gallery's expansive, glass-covered central courtyard for the ceremony. Kim Sajet, the director of the gallery, told the audience that a portrait was not truly finished until a viewer, a member of the public, had a personal encounter with it.
Then came the unveiling — quite literally, as fabric covers were pulled off the portraits on a small stage.
I was surprised by the portraits and what I mean by that is, I found them to be more artistic than most typical official portraits are. If you go to the National Portrait Gallery and look at portraits of famous people, they tend to be real vanity pictures and often by artists who are able to do a likeness but they’re not able to really make what I would consider a profound artistic statement. There are lots of great portraits out there, but these are really strong works of art as well as portraits.
Best references from the speeches: