Barack Obama Chooses Culture Artist Kehinde Wiley To Paint His Presidential Portrait

The gallery made the announcement during the recent commissioning of the museum's official portraits of the former U.S. president and his wife Michelle.

The Smithsonian has been commissioning portraits for former U.S. presidents and first ladies since George H.W. Bush.

But the selection of Wiley and Sherald by the Obamas carries another important legacy - one that goes beyond art itself.

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Barack and Michelle Obama have selected two black artists to paint their official portraits for the Smithsonian museum. We definitely can not wait to see the paintings of the Obamas; they're sure to make us miss them even more.

The Smithsonian announced on October 13 that New York's Kehinde Wiley and Baltimore's Amy Sherald will paint the portraits. Wiley is world-renowned for his portraits of young black men wearing the latest in hip-hop street fashion.

Arguably, this has been one of the coolest choices in the Smithsonian Gallery's history. He employs distinctive patterns to "complement his realistic, yet expressive, likenesses". Along with the exhibition that showcases all of the winning portraits, the first-place prize includes the opportunity to create a portrait of a living individual for the museum's permanent collection.

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Both artists are known mainly for their work painting African-American subjects with colorful backgrounds.

He added: "The reality of Barack Obama being the president of the United States-quite possibly the most powerful nation in the world-means that the image of power is completely new for an entire generation of not only black American kids, but every population group in this nation". More subdued that Wiley, Sherald's work has won a prestigious prize from the Portrait Gallery just previous year, while showing in public collections across the country.

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  • Theresa Obrien