Obamas unveil official portraits at Smithsonian (video)

FEBRUARY 12, 2018

Monday morning, a ceremony was held at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where former President Obama and Michelle Obama unveiled their recently painted official portraits, which will join the “America’s Presidents” exhibition at the gallery.

Obama’s portrait has him sitting among a hedge of green leaves, already creating waves of comments and comparisons on social media, while others have observed that Michelle Obama’s portrait doesn’t look like her.

The Hill reported:

While artist Kehinde Wiley is typically known for portraying African-Americans as “famous figures in Western art,” his portrait of the 56-year-old 44th president “does not include an overt art historical reference,” according to the Smithsonian.

The flowers seen in the background of the former president’s portrait do have symbolic meanings. The chrysanthemums are the official flower of Chicago, where Obama began his political career. His childhood home of Hawaii is represented through jasmine, and African blue lilies serve as a nod to his late Kenyan-born father, Barack Obama Sr.

Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald was selected to paint Michelle Obama’s portrait. Sherald’s interpretation of the ex-first lady features gray skin tones, a hallmark of the majority of her paintings. Obama, 54, is seen wearing a dress by fashion designer Michelle Smith’s label, Milly.

Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson, who Obama had previously invited to the White House, tweeted his praise of the portrait.


Michelle Obama referenced race on multiple occasions in her speech at the presentation.

“I’m also thinking about all the…girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place…will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution.”