Obama picks brilliant gay artist Kehinde Wiley to paint his official portrait

Oct 18, 2017, 00:43

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery announced today that Barack and Michelle Obama have chosen the artists who will paint their official portraits.

Though the White House commissioned black Alabaman artist Simmie Knox to paint the Clintons in 2000, these are the first black artists hired by the Smithsonian for a portrait of a former president since they started commissioning portraits in 1994.

The Obamas portraits will be unveiled at the museum in early 2018.

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Wiley is widely known for his portraits of young Black men donning the latest street fashion.

Dressed in modern-day T-shirts and sneakers, baseball caps and tattoos, Wiley's subjects are immortalized in regal poses of kings and saints, rendered against a vibrant, textile backdrop. Two sets of each artwork will be created; one will live in the National Portrait Gallery, while the other will hang inside the White House - a tradition that began after George H.W. Bush's presidency.

Although he did not grow up with him, Kehinde's father is Nigerian while his mother is African American.

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The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery made the announcement on Monday. Sherald challenges stereotypes and probes notions of identity through her life-size paintings of African Americans.

In fact, Michelle Obama's portrait choice is no slouch either.

Throughout his career, Kehinde has become renowned for creating portraits of African American men, including the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Michael Jackson, and more. Out of more than 2,500 entries, Sherald's oil painting "Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance)" won first place in the Portrait Gallery's 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

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