President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have strong roots in Chicago; it's the city where the pair shared their first kiss, got married and launched a political career that lead them to the White House. While we're still not sure exactly when the Barack Obama Presidential Center will open its doors to the public in Jackson Park, Chicagoans will be able to see a couple works of art inspired by the Obamas on display at a local museum in 2021.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announced that the portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, will embark on a five-city tour next year. The Art Institute of Chicago will be the first stop on the nationwide tour, where the portraits will be on display from June 8, 2021 through August 5, 2021. After the portraits leave the Art Institute, they'll be exhibited in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston before returning to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. in 2022.
Unveiled in 2018, the Obama portraits are notable for their striking modern appearances and use of bright colors, standing in contrast to past presidential portraits that favored a classical style and a somber palette. Painted by Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama's portrait depicts the president against a wall of foliage, with flowers symbolizing his heritage (including Chicago's official flower, the chrysanthemum) peeking through the leaves. The portrait of Michelle Obama by artist Amy Sherald renders the former First Lady in shades of grey, wearing a designer dress in front of a vivid blue backdrop.
It's unclear if the portraits will go on display at the Art Institute as a stand-alone exhibition or as part of a larger group of works, but we won't be surprised if the arrival of the Obama portraits attracts the kind of crowds that the museum's recent Andy Warhol exhibit boasted. Mark your calendar for next June and be prepared to wait in line to catch a glimpse of these vibrant works of art.