The portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama: the national tour starts in Chicago

Chicago, more precisely the Art Institute, is the first city to host the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama which will be on tour until May 2022. 

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington – home to the two works created in 2018 by artists Kehinde Wiley (author of the former President’s portrait) and Amy Sherald (author of the former First Lady’s portrait) – organized the tour in 5 different cities of the United States: the exhibition will be available, in addition to Chicago until August 15, also in New York (from August 27 to October 24 at the Brooklyn Museum), in Los Angeles (at the County Museum of Art from November 7 to January 2, 2022) , then in Atlanta (at the High Museum of Art from 14 January to 13 March 2022) and finally in Houston (at the Museum of Fine Arts from 27 March to 30 May 2022). 

The year following their realization, the two works brought in about one million more visitors than the number of guests the Institute had the previous year. “We have never seen such crowds come to visit presidential and first lady portraits in our galleries. We had lines wrapped around the building“, said Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. In addition, for the first time, portraits of the former President of the United States and the former First Lady will be displayed side by side. 

The Art Institute of Chicago has a unique bond with the Obamas: the museum was the site of their first date. The Institute “is thrilled to provide our visitors – from Chicago and around the world – the opportunity to experience the power and beauty of these celebrated works in our galleries”, reads a note. “This is a Chicago story”, said James Rondeau Art Institute director. “Chicago has defined in some ways the Obamas. The Obamas have in some ways defined Chicago“. 

“Not only do the portraits feature history-making subjects but they were made by ground-breaking artists. Wiley and Sherald are the first African Americans to be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create official portraits of a president or first lady. Wiley placed a seated President Obama against a backdrop of flowers with special significance, including chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago. Sherald captured the former first lady against light-blue ground, sitting and gazing directly at the viewer”. 

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