Obama paintings at National Portrait Gallery set to embark on 5-city tour

Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama, center, stands on stage during the unveiling of the Obama’s official portraits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, which boosted attendance at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery after they debuted, are leaving D.C. to appear at five other museums.

Kehinde Wiley’s painting of former President Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama will be displayed at the following museums between June 2021 and May 2022:

  • Art Institute of Chicago (June 18, 2021 – Aug. 15, 2021)
  • Brooklyn Museum (Aug. 27, 2021 – Oct. 24, 2021)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Nov. 5, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022)
  • High Museum of Art in Atlanta (Jan. 14, 2022 – March 13, 2022)
  • The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (March 25, 2022 – May 30, 2022)

The locations were selected based on their connections to the artists and the Obamas, a National Portrait Gallery spokeswoman told WTOP.

The tour will also include audiovisual elements, workshops, curatorial presentations and an illustrated book to complement the portraits.

Though visitors were able to view the portraits for free in D.C., all of the participating museums charge admission, the spokeswoman said. However, they will all allow some variation of free admission during the paintings’ stay. The details will vary at each venue, she said.

“We wanted to do a tour that had national reach,” the spokeswoman said. “These portraits have been immensely popular in Washington, D.C. We wanted to do what we could to bring the artwork out.”

Though the museum also celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018, it credits most of its record-setting 2.3 million visitors that year to the portraits’ arrivals.

The portraits will return to D.C. once the tour concludes.

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