Kehinde Wiley Will Handle Barack Obama’s Smithsonian Portrait
Now that Barack Obama has returned to private citizen status, he can go about honoring his legacy with the finest work the arts world offers. In that vein, the ex-POTUS has called upon the South Central L.A.-bred painter Kehinde Wiley to craft his portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
It’s tradition for the Smithsonian and the White House to collaborate on portraits for the president and first lady once they leave office. Barack will tap Wiley for his, while Michelle will call upon Baltimore painter Amy Sherald—known for her life-size depictions of African-American women and social commentary—to craft her portrait. Both pieces of art will hang in the Washington museum, to be unveiled in 2018.
Wiley is commonly known as the “hip hop portraitist,” the Yale University School of Art grad that became a sensation in the art world by reimagining the classic Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps painting with a black man donning a bandana tied around his head. Wiley’s forte is crafting “unorthodox” paintings of black people in nuanced poses, and positioning black subjects on the lofty pedestals of power often exuded by classic Napoleon-era art. Over the last half-decade, he’s become one of the more famous and recognizable names on the contemporary art scene.
And now, he and B.O. will connect. Sensational.