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The Obama Portraits Tour

February 1, 2022 | Michael Rooks

On view through March 20

The Obama Portraits Tour, organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, presents the celebrated portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama by contemporary artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.

The paintings by Wiley and Sherald became a phenomenon after they were unveiled in February 2018, in part because they departed from the formality of conventional presidential portraiture while speaking to the universal values of inclusion and diversity. They also reflected a presidency filled with numerous firsts. Not only were the Obamas the first African American family in the White House, but they were also the first president and first lady of the social media age, and their interest in contemporary art among their predecessors was unprecedented.

The exhibition will also feature a seven-minute documentary on the commissioning process and the making of the portraits. The National Portrait Gallery began commissioning presidential portraits in 1994, with George H. W. Bush, and commissioned its first portrait of a first lady in 2006, with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Former President Barack Obama, wearing a dark suit, sits in a wooden chair against a full background of ivy scattered with multi-colored blooms.

Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977), Barack Obama, 2018, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2018 Kehinde Wiley. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the generous donors who made these commissions possible and proudly recognizes them at

Michelle Obama sits against a light blue background, wearing a long white dress with geometric patterns.

Amy Sherald (American, born 1973), Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, 2018, oil on linen, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the generous donors who made these commissions possible and proudly recognizes them at


Virtual Curatorial Conversation:
Obama Portraits with Taína Caragol, Dorothy Moss, and Michael Rooks
Thursday, February 10, 6 p.m., Zoom
In celebration of the Obama portraits being on display in the High’s galleries, we welcome Dorothy Moss and Taína Caragol from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Moss is the curator of painting and sculpture and coordinating curator of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative; Caragol is the curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history. The two—in conversation with Michael Rooks, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art—will discuss the process of commissioning the Obama portraits from Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley.

Free for members. Reservations are required. Visit or call 404-733-5000 to reserve tickets.

The Obama Portraits Tour is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.

Support for the national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America.


Community access ticketing made possible by The Coca-Cola Foundation.

Lead support provided by BlackRock, Graphic Packaging International, and Mack Wilbourn.

Funding provided by Kent and Tamara Kelley and Sally and Allen McDaniel.

Delta Air Lines

ACT Foundation, Inc.
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Dr. Joan H. Weens Estate
Harry Norman Realty
wish Foundation

Robin and Hilton Howell

The Antinori Foundation
Corporate Environments
The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation
Elizabeth and Chris Willett

Farideh and Al Azadi
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
Mrs. Peggy Foreman
Helen C. Griffith
Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Dr. Joe B. Massey
Margot and Danny McCaul
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Wade Rakes and Nicholas Miller
The Fred and Rita Richman Fund
In Memory of Elizabeth B. Stephens
USI Insurance Services
Mrs. Harriet H. Warren

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund