The Obama portraits debut this summer at the Brooklyn Museum, their second stop on a nationwide tour.
Opening August 27, Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of Mrs. Michelle Obama have inspired an unprecedented response from the public.
Opening Celebration: The Obama Portraits
Saturday, August 28, 4–8 pm | Free
Celebrate the opening of The Obama Portraits with an afternoon of music, art-making, and poetry in honor of these vibrant and groundbreaking depictions of American leadership. Enjoy a DJ set by Niara Sterling and a musical tribute by the legendary Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, who present a smorgasbord of diverse “avant groidd” musical idioms filled with sugar-soaked sonic ingredients. Then, Kyle Carrero Lopez, Nkosi Nkululeko, and celeste doaks read their original poetry presented in partnership with Cave Canem, Brooklyn’s leading organization dedicated to cultivating the artistic growth of Black poets. Throughout the day, shop and snack at the Brooklyn Pop-Up Market, which is spotlighting local Black artists and vendors this week, get a community portrait taken by Souls in Focus, and participate in art-making activities hosted by Cool Culture and Brooklyn Museum educators. In addition, Cool Culture will launch their Health, Wellbeing & Vaccine initiative providing families with reliable information on the COVID-19 vaccine and highlighting community-specific traditional healing practices.
After-Hours Tours of The Obama Portraits:
One of our friendly and professional Museum Guides will take you on a guided visit through the exhibition and encourage lively discussion, with ample opportunities for questions and answers. Our tours are intended for adult groups, with a maximum of ten participants. For more details, click here.
Brooklyn Talks: The Sartorial Vision of Michelle Obama
From Inauguration Day to her official portrait by Amy Sherald (on view as part of our special exhibition The Obama Portraits Tour), First Lady Michelle Obama powerfully expressed the values and vision of the Obama White House through her sartorial choices. Explore the former First Lady’s culture-shifting style with image strategist Meredith Koop—who has been Michelle Obama’s stylist since 2010, in the White House and for subsequent appearances—and fashion historian Kimberly M. Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies, Ryerson University, and principal researcher for The Fashion and Race Database. The two discuss some of Michelle Obama’s key looks, starting with her official portrait, and explore the intersection between fashion and politics. Tickets are $30 and include after-hours admission to The Obama Portraits Tour.
The groundbreaking portraits of President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama—painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively—go on view at the Brooklyn Museum this August in the paintings’ only Northeastern stop on their five-city tour, organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Transforming traditions of American presidential portraiture, the paintings document two unprecedented occasions: the election of the first Black president of the United States, and the selection of the first Black artists to receive the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s commission for portraits of a president or first lady.
In painting these two portraits, and in close consultation with their sitters, Wiley and Sherald re-envisioned the centuries-long tradition of representing political leaders. Their images of the Obamas present a striking contrast to the formality of earlier presidential portraits and images of first ladies. Before photography, these older portraits often served as the primary image of a president. Today, our presidents and first ladies are constantly in the spotlight and their images are ubiquitous.
The Obama Portraits exhibition reflects the Brooklyn Museum’s own rich history of exploring ideas of portraiture, iconography, and representation of power across time and cultures. Visitors will be encouraged to explore those themes by drawing comparisons with other works on view throughout the Museum’s collection galleries, including Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (1796) and Wiley’s Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005), as well as examples in our Ancient Egyptian Art, Arts of Asia, and Decorative Arts galleries.
Through the presentation of these now-iconic works by Wiley and Sherald, as well as others across the Museum’s collection galleries, the exhibition contemplates how portraiture has given visual form to ideas of power, identity, status, and legacy throughout history.
Other tour locations include the Art Institute of Chicago (June 18–August 15, 2021), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (November 7, 2021–January 2, 2022), High Museum of Art, Atlanta (January 14–March 13, 2022), and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (March 25–May 30, 2022).