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The Obama portraits are coming to the Brooklyn Museum

Written by
Howard Halle

When Americans went from electing Barack Obama for two terms to putting Donald Trump into the White House in 2016, it was sort of like the country went on a collective bender before vomiting on itself. If you’re someone who’s missed the elegantly sober presence of the former President and First Lady Michelle Obama, there’s good news: Next year, their official likenesses are leaving their home at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. for a national tour that includes a stop at the Borough of Kings’s very own Brooklyn Museum.

Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama, 2018
Photograph: The National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., © 2018 Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald were respectively commissioned to paint Barack and Michelle Obama, and the fact that both artists are African-American represents a break from past presidential portraiture. Wiley chose to depict the President against a thick backdrop of foliage punctuated by floral blossoms, while Sherald pictured the First Lady swathed in a voluminous dress decorated with an Art Deco pattern. Additionally, Sherald painted her in gray skin tones, a motif the artist uses to de-emphasis the issue of race in her work while also setting up color contrasts that make her subjects appear to pop from the canvas.

Amy Sherald, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, 2018
Photograph: The National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

The tour kicks of June 18, 2021 at the Art Institute of Chicago—the Obamas’ hometown—before arriving in Brooklyn on August 27. From there, it’s on to Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the High Art Museum in Atlanta and finally the The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Fans of class acts will have until Oct 24, 2021 to visit the First Couple during their stay on Eastern Parkway.

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