Obama chooses Kehinde Wiley to paint official presidential portrait

Wednesday, 18 Oct, 2017

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. has commissioned Kehninde Wiley and Amy Sherald to paint Barack and Michelle Obama's portraits, respectively, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The gallery made the announcement during the recent commissioning of the museum's official portraits of the former United States president and his wife Michelle. The Obamas each selected the artist that would paint their portrait.

Both artists are celebrated for their mythic and buoyant depictions of black subjects. Artist Kehinde Wiley-best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans-will create the portrait of President Obama. The museum began this practice with former President George H.W. Bush.

Wiley's work adds a modern twist to re-imagined Western classic paintings, showing contemporary African-Americans in theatrical poses. He employs distinctive patterns to "complement his realistic, yet expressive, likenesses".

Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement the museum is "absolutely delighted" the artists agreed to paint the official portraits of the couple. Former first lady Michelle Obama has chosen Baltimore-based painter Amy Sherald to paint her portrait.

She uses a gray-scale in her life-sized oil paintings of African American people. Two sets of the portraits are then printed: one for the White House and another for the National Portrait Gallery.

Sherald's trademark gray-toned masterpieces have taken the art world by storm, and she is the recipient of several prizes, including the National Portrait Gallery's prestigious Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. In another lifetime known popularly as 2012, Wiley spoke about Obama's presidency with the BBC.