The Obama Portraits Takeover The Art World


The Obamas are The Culture. President Barack and First Lady Michelle define grace and intelligence serving as role models for The Culture and just being dope. And 10 years after he was first elected as the 44th President of the United States, and two years since they’ve left the Oval Office, the Obamas are still doing their part to move The Culture forward.


President Barack Obama

On February 12th, 2018 right in the middle of Black History Month, official portraits of President Barack and First Lady Michelle were unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and basically broke the art world.

Creators For The Culture Kehinde Whiley and Amy Sherald created the portraits of Barack and Michelle respectively bringing two different styles and both blowing people away. In the President’s portrait, he’s leaning forward in a chair looking directly at us ready to say something profound. He has on a dark suit with an open collar, his post-presidency go-to look, formal but fresh. One of Wiley’s calling cards is his use of ornamental backgrounds in his portraits, like wallpaper for his work. Here he takes it to another level with the flora references representing specific places in Obama’s life: Chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago; blue lilies from his father’s home in Kenya; and jasmine from Hawaii. It all comes together to create a one-of-a-kind portrait of the one-and-only President Obama.




Michelle Obama

In her portrait, First Lady Michelle Obama looks strong, unique, and independent. She’s stylish as always in a designer dress with simple, geometric patterns and bold colors against a plain blue background, shaped as a pyramid. Sherald uses a style called grisaille; a method of painting her subject’s skin in gray monochrome. Her gradations slyly allude to the mixed and often unacknowledged backgrounds of African-Americans and make an important statement about our racial history. Mrs. Obama’s portrait is like a throwback Rockwellian billboard for success via confidence, style, and a strong moral core. An ultra-stylized portrait for the most stylish and coolest First Lady of all-time.

Each of the Obamas chose their respective artists to do their portraits and clearly, Whiley and Sherald did their respective things. Since their unveilings, attendance numbers at Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery have skyrocketed. Michelle Obama’s portrait is so popular that it had to be moved to a different area in the museum to accommodate the large crowds. Just the Obama’s doing what they do, breaking barriers, making history and repping The Culture.



Written by @TalentedMrFord

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