The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced that the portraits of former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama, by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, will travel the country beginning in the summer of 2021. The Obama portraits, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, will come to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — the only Texas stop on the tour.
The paintings, unveiled February 12, 2018 in the presence of the artists and President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, were the first official portraits of a President or First Lady to have been painted for the National Portrait Gallery.
The portraits’ tour begins in the Obamas’ hometown of Chicago on June 18, 2021, and will continue to four other cities, including Houston, through May 30, 2022, reaching millions who may not be able to make a trip to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
“We view the country as our community,” states Kim Sajet, Director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Since the unveiling of these two portraits of the Obamas, the Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors, not only to view these works in person, but to be part of the communal experience of a particular moment in time. This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people in the beauty of dialogue and shared experience.”
The National Portrait Gallery’s collection includes more than 1,600 portraits of U.S. presidents and holds the nation’s only complete collection of U.S. presidents accessible to the public.
The tour list includes: Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago—June 18, 2021–Aug. 15, 2021; Brooklyn Museum; Brooklyn, New York—Aug. 27, 2021–Oct. 24, 2021; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Los Angeles—Nov. 5, 2021–Jan. 2, 2022; High Art Museum; Atlanta—Jan. 14, 2022–March 13, 2022; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston—March 25, 2022–May 30, 2022.
In addition to the paintings, programming at each location on the tour will include an audio-visual element, Portrait Gallery-led teacher workshops and curatorial presentations, as well as available copies of The Obama Portraits, a book published in partnership with Princeton University Press which will be released Feb. 11.