Archive for October 14th, 2017

14
Oct
17

Champions Of The Arts

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Kelly Crow: Obamas Choose Rising Stars To Paint Their Official Portraits

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a pair of rising-star artists—New York’s Kehinde Wiley and Baltimore’s Amy Sherald—to paint its official portraits of the former president and first lady. Both artists have exhibited widely, but this presidential assignmentamounts to a coup as they follow in the footsteps of artists like Gilbert Stuart, whose portraits of George Washington are considered masterpieces. The Obamas also made a point to champion the arts during their time in the White House, which has heightened art-world curiosity over which artists they would choose.

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The Smithsonian confirmed Thursday that former President Barack Obama has asked to be painted by Mr. Wiley, a 40-year-old artist best known for his vivid portraits of young, black men in imperious, Old-Master poses. Ms. Sherald, a 44-year-old artist known for painting surreal portraits of elegant black women, will paint Ms. Obama. Ms. Sherald’s signature style is to use a palette of grays instead of skin tones to capture her subjects’ faces and hands. Anticipation in art circles is high because the Obamas have chosen artists with major followings. The Smithsonian’s set of presidential and first-lady portraits remains distinct from the White House’s own collection of portraits, though. Mr. Wiley and Ms. Sherald are the first black artists hired by the Smithsonian to paint a president and his first lady.

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