Official portraits of former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
Painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, the collection marks the first time that African American artists have been commissioned by the gallery to do portraits of a former president and first lady.
Wiley's portrait shows the suited-up 44th president sitting on a wooden chair against a wall of leaves and flowers, while Michelle is perched in a flowing black-and-white dress.
The couple were on hand to reveal the artwork, with Barack standing back to admire his portrait while the crowd cheered.
He then sweetly thanked Sherald for “spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love."
In an email sent to Obama Foundation subscribers, the 56-year-old explained the significance of selecting the artists who would help, “shape, quite literally, how someone sees the office of the American presidency.”
“Kehinde Wiley and I share some things in common,” Barack explained. “Both of us had an American mother who raised us, an African father who was absent from our lives, and a search to figure out just where we fit in. I wrote a book about that journey, because I can’t paint. But I suspect a lot of Kehinde’s journey is reflected in his art.”
“I was struck by the way his portraits challenge the way we view power and privilege; the way he endows his subjects, men and women often invisible in everyday life, with a level of dignity that not only makes them visible, but commands our attention,” he added.
Celebs were quick to react to the portraits, with Chrissy Teigen tweeting Michelle’s piece of art with the caption “Help us,” while A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay praised the works for reminding her “to hope.”
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