The Obama portraits, unveiled in 2018, have attracted large crowds to D.C.'s National Portrait Gallery. Now, new audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy them.
If there's anything as widely popular and well-liked as former Presidential couple Barack and Michelle Obama, it's their stunning portraits. Unveiled together in February 2018, the paintings have attracted record numbers to Washington D.C.'s National Portrait Gallery. Now, they are going on a world tour so more people can bask in their glory. Starting in June 2021, the Obama portraits will travel to five cities across the country so new audiences will have the opportunity to see them up-close and personal, The Washington Post reports. The tour is set to begin in Chicago, a city close to both the former President's and first lady's hearts, and end in Houston.
While the National Portrait Gallery commissioned the beautiful masterpieces, the historical gallery is under the belief that more people should be able to enjoy them. Kim Sajet, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, stated regarding the portraits' world tour, "We’re a history museum and an art museum, and they are really great representations of both. This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people. You can use these portraits as a portal to all sorts of conversations." The age of the portrait, evidently, is not dead just yet.
The portraits have quite the hectic schedule planned for them. The national tour is set to start on June 18 next year. They will first travel to the Art Institute of Chicago, where they will be displayed until August 15. Then, for the second stop of their journey, they will be displayed at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City from August 27 to October 24. After that, the portraits will be featured in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from November 5 to January 2, 2022, before being moved to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. They will be displayed there from January 14 to March 13. Their tour will end at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, where they will be displayed from March 25 to May 30. Hectic, indeed!
If you're wondering why these specific museums and art galleries were picked, there are both personal as well as geographical reasons. The Obamas, of course, have a rather deep connection with Chicago. In addition to this, the paintings will be in their city when the former President celebrates his milestone 60th birthday. The artists, Kehinde Wiley (who was commissioned with Obama's painting) and Amy Sherald (who is responsible for the painting of the former first lady), and their connections have also played a role in selecting the museums. For instance, while Sherald was raised in Georgia, Wiley was born in Los Angeles. Furthermore, Wiley’s studio is based in Brooklyn. "We handpicked [the museums]," Sajet shared. "They were the easiest calls I’ve made in my life."
One thing that the National Portrait Gallery wanted to ensure was accessibility. Sajet revealed that the five museums chosen for the tour have been requested to provide some form of free access, even if the museums can guarantee only "a number of free days" during each stop on the national tour. In response to this, James Rondeau, director of the Art Institute of Chicago, affirmed, "[The museum will] radically expand free hours for Chicagoans. We want to make sure everyone who wants to see these iconic portraits will be able to. I very much hope and expect we will be in the happy business of managing long lines." The same is to be expected of the other four locations. So, if you're yet to make the trip to D.C. to view the stunning portraits, you may no longer have to.