Both Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, who painted the Obamas' official portraits unveiled Monday, were featured in recent local exhibitions: Wiley at Seattle Art Museum in 2016 and Sherald at Tacoma Art Museum in 2017.
There was much buzz Monday morning when the National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The works were painted by African American artists personally chosen by the Obamas: Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.
As it happens, both artists were recently featured in exhibitions in the Seattle area.
The Seattle Art Museum hosted a stunning exhibition of the works of Wiley, who painted former Pres. Obama’s portrait, in 2016.
“Wiley asks us to think about biases in the art-historical canon and pop culture, as well as issues of race, class, gender and sexual orientation. He fuses awkwardness with elegance, intimacy with spectacle,” critic Gayle Clemans said in a Seattle Times review of the exhibition.
Amy Sherald, who painted Michelle Obama’s portrait, was featured as part of a touring exhibition last year of the winners of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin portrait competition.
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“It’s easy to see why the first prize of $25,000 dollars and a commission for the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection went to Amy Sherald, Clemans said in a Seattle Times review. “The blend of realism and abstraction creates an aura of fantasy, hinting at the absurd expectations of propriety surrounding race and gender,” Clemans said of one of Sherald’s paintings.
The same might be said of Sherald’s portrait of the former first lady.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this post.