September 24, 2023

The Obama Portraits Tour

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.

HOUSTON-The official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been displayed at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). President Obama’s portrait was created by Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald created the portrait of the First Lady. The portraits have gained national attention since the first reveal at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in February 2018.

Wiley and Sherald made history as the first African American artists who were selected to create the portraits of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. According to Wiley’s website, he is a Los Angeles native and “has firmly situated himself within the art’s history portrait painting.” In addition, “As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists, including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, among others, Wiley, engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic and the sublime in his representation of urban, black and brown men found throughout the world.”

Artist Sherald was born in Columbus, Georgia and is known to document the “contemporary African American experience in the United States through arresting, otherworldly figurative paintings. Sherald engages with the history of photography and portraiture, inviting viewers to participate in a more complex debate about accepted notions of race and representation, and to situate Black heritage centrally in American art,” according to Hauser and Wirth.

Both Wiley and Sherald did a phenomenal job on their portraits. You can truly see their unique styles and personalities reflected in each piece. On the day I attended the tour, there were many people who were amazed at their work and enjoyed the beauty and detail of each design, which captured the elegance and the epitome of Black excellence.

If you are looking for something to do in Houston, consider a visit to the MFAH. The MFAH is a great place that showcases different art pieces by some of the most talented people. The tour kicked off at The Art Institute of Chicago on June 18th and has been to the Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, High Art Museum, Atlanta, and now in Houston. The portraits tour in Houston started on April 3rd and will end May30th.



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