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The Obama Portraits Tour

October 1, 2021 | Michael Rooks

On view January 14–March 20, 2022

The High is proud to participate in The Obama Portraits Tour, featuring the portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. Before their departure from the White House, the former president and first lady selected Wiley and Sherald to paint their portraits from a portfolio of recommendations made by the curators of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The portraits, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery for its permanent collection, were unveiled at a special ceremony at the Gallery in February 2018. The National Portrait Gallery started commissioning portraits of US presidents in 1994 and of the First Lady in 2006.

Wiley and Sherald (the High’s 2018 Driskell Prize recipient) are the first African American artists to receive commissions for presidential portraits for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. Both began their portraits of the Obamas from life, each taking photographs of their subjects and then referencing those photographs as they worked on their paintings. A richly illustrated book that accompanies the exhibition, The Obama Portraits (2020), reveals the artists’ processes as well as the history of US presidential portraiture.

Exhibition catalogue available for purchase at the Museum Shop and at Members receive 10% off Shop purchases.

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


Curatorial Conversation: Obama Portraits with Taína Caragol, Dorothy Moss, and Michael Rooks
February 10, 2022
7 p.m., Rich Theatre

In celebration of the Obama portraits being on display in the High’s galleries, we welcome Dorothy Moss and Taína Caragol from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Moss is the acting director of curatorial affairs and the coordinating curator of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative; Caragol is the curator of painting and sculpture and Latinx 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.



In order to get early access to tickets as a member, you must have purchased a membership by October 1. For lapsed members to be in good standing, memberships must be renewed by October 1.

When will tickets for The Obama Portraits Tour be available?
The Obama Portraits Tour exhibition will require a timed, event-specific ticket that includes admission to the Museum. Regular “general admission” and “special exhibition” tickets will not grant visitors access into The Obama Portraits Tour exhibition. Members will have the first opportunity to reserve tickets, at a reduced price of $8.25. Members may reserve a specified number of tickets that coincides with their membership level. Tickets for not-yet-members are $16.50 per visitor ages six and over (except on Fridays when there are HIGH Frequency Friday or Friday Jazz events) and free for visitors under the age of five. All Obama Portraits Tour tickets will be labeled as such. Tickets labeled “general museum admission” or “special exhibition” are not Obama Portraits Tour tickets. All visitors of The Obama Portraits Tour will require an Obama Portraits Tour ticket.

Member Ticket Pre-Sale: The membership sale for The Obama Portraits Tour starts Monday, October 11, and will run through Friday, October 15.
The sale will start each day at 10 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. Based on membership levels, members may purchase a select number of tickets at $8.25. PLEASE NOTE: The opportunity for members to reserve tickets at a reduced rate of $8.25 will only be available during October 11–15, 2021.

Individual and Student Members may purchase one ticket at $8.25 and up to five Obama Portraits Tour tickets at $16.50 each (except on Fridays when there are HIGH Frequency Friday or Friday Jazz events).*

Dual/Family, Contributing, YP, and Patron Members may purchase a total of four tickets at $8.25 and two additional Obama Portraits Tour tickets at $16.50 each (except on Fridays when there are HIGH Frequency Friday or Friday Jazz events).*

Donor and Sustaining Patron, Circle Salon, Circle Member, Circle Supporter, Circle Benefactor, and Circle Premier Members may purchase a total of six tickets at $8.25.*

*The total ticket allotment includes any free tickets reserved for ages five and under. All Obama Portraits Tour exhibition tickets are timed and must be purchased in advance.

How much are member tickets? Can my member guest passes be used to redeem Obama Portraits Tour tickets?
October 11–15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., members can purchase tickets at the reduced rate of $8.25 to attend The Obama Portraits Tour exhibition. Visitors ages five and under are free but will require a ticket to monitor capacity restrictions in the galleries. All visitors will require a designated timed ticket. Member guest passes cannot be used to redeem tickets for The Obama Portraits Tour exhibition. Regular “general admission” and “special exhibition” Museum tickets will not grant visitors access into The Obama Portraits Tour exhibition.

What action will members need to take before reserving tickets during the member sale window?
Members should be prepared to log in to their member account. We recommend that all members try logging in to prior to October 11 to ensure a smooth ticket-purchasing experience. If you are a new member or if you’ve never created a web login, you may be required to register. If you attempt to log in with an email address that is not in our database, the system will not recognize you. To add your preferred email address to our system, please call 404-733-4575 (Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.), and we will be happy to assist you. If you already have a member login but have forgotten your login information, you will need to reset this information prior to October 8.

Why is it necessary to log in to my account?
Your account gives you access to your full membership benefits. Without logging in, you will not be able to purchase tickets at the reduced rate of $8.25 during the member sale window.

What happens if members miss the early sale window?
Members may still buy tickets after the members sale, but the reduced rate of $8.25 will not apply, and availability cannot be guaranteed.

Visit to see complete Obama Portraits Tour FAQ information.

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

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


Lead support provided by Dr. Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Mack Wilbourn.

Funding provided by Sally and Allen McDaniel.

Delta Air Lines

Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Dr. Joan H. Weens Estate
wish Foundation

Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Robin and Hilton Howell

The Antinori Foundation
Corporate Environments
Elizabeth and Chris Willett

Farideh and Al Azadi
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
Helen C. Griffith
Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation
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