They were always going to do things differently.
Usually, the unveiling of the presidential portraits for the National Portrait Gallery is a non-event.
The portrait is revealed to the former president by the artist they chose and, deciding then and there whether they like it, the painting is either redone or added to the America’s Presidents exhibit.
But stuff tradition.
Not only are Michelle and Barack Obama the first African-American presidential couple to hold a place in the exhibition, but the painters they picked to portray them – Kehinde Wiley for Barack; Amy Sherald for Michelle – are African-American as well.
And let’s not forget that many of the former presidents were slave owners.
But that’s not even all of it – more, from The New York Times:
Both artists have addressed the politics of race consistently in their past work, and both have done so in subtly savvy ways in these new commissions.
Mr. Wiley depicts Mr. Obama not as a self-assured, standard-issue bureaucrat, but as an alert and troubled thinker. Ms. Sherald’s image of Mrs. Obama overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool.
The America’s Presidents exhibit is the only place “outside the White House with a complete collection of presidential portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama,” reports TIME:
The earliest presidential portraits sometimes served as the only images of the president. These days, it’s easier than ever for the White House to take and share photographs of the President on social media, but paintings like the Obamas’ portraits — images of which can be seen online, with the works on view to the public at the National Portrait Gallery starting on Tuesday — still offer another read on a president.
An example of other portraits can be seen below; from left to right: George Washington (The Lansdowne Portrait) by Gilbert Stuart; President Theodore Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent; Portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson by Peter Hurd.
Each of the Obamas spoke during Monday’s event.
As her portrait was revealed first, former FLOTUS spoke before Barack, mentioning her late father, who she says “sacrificed everything to give me and my brother the opportunities he never dreamed for himself,” reports HuffPost:
“Let’s just start by saying, ‘Wow,’ again,” she said. Pointing to her mother, seated in the audience, she added: “Hi Mom. Whatcha’ think? Pretty nice, isn’t it?”
She also said she was “thinking about all of the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall.”
The portrait of Michelle, by Amy Sherald:
Next up was Barack:
“How about that? That’s pretty sharp.”
Reacting to his portrait in true Barack form, the rest of his speech followed suit, reports CNN:
“I tried to negotiate less gray hair, and Kehinde’s artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears, struck out on that as well,” joked Obama from the podium during his remarks.
Obama also asked Wiley, who often depicts his subjects as regal and god-like, if the could ease up on those flourishes.
“I had to explain that I’ve got enough political problems without you making me look like Napoleon. We’ve got to bring it down just a touch. And that’s what he did,” the former president said.
“What I was always struck by when I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our ideas of power and privilege,” Obama said.
And Wiley did well:
And, for a split second, we were reminded of the the good ol’ days.
[imagesource: Brandan Reynolds / Business Day] Our health minister, Zweli Mkhize, is cu...
[imagesource:here] Looks like rap legend and doobie smoker Snoop Dogg is also a part-ti...
[imagesource: Rachel Levit] Remember when we were forced to read the back of air freshe...
[imagesource: AFP] Novak Djokovic is an incredible tennis player, who will almost certa...
[imagesource:here] Anticipation for Ridley Scott's House of Gucci has been brewing sinc...