Kehinde Wiley, “LL Cool J,” 2005, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery

Just a week or two ago, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, D.C., announced the two artists slated to paint the official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Who are they?

Internationally acclaimed painter Kehinde Wiley, best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans, and portrait master Amy Sherald, first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, have been chosen to paint the NPG’s official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Amy Sherald, “Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance),” 2013, oil on canvas, Frances and Burton Reifler

The two portraits will be unveiled at the museum in early 2018 and will be added to the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. “The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former President and First Lady,” said Kim Sajet, director of the NPG. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

According to the NPG, “At the end of each presidency, the museum partners with the White House to commission one official portrait of the President and one of his spouse. There are two sets of official portraits: one for the White House and one for the National Portrait Gallery. The museum began to commission Presidents’ portraits with George H.W. Bush.”

To learn more, visit the National Portrait Gallery.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


  1. It will be interesting to note what the artists ‘add’ to the portrait commissions. I can’t imagine Michelle Obama in grey with a red hat and an oversized cappuccino cup hanging in the WH next to Barack in front of orange and green wallpaper. Clown hats and garish wallpaper seem more suited to a different president….

  2. What an honor. A trip through the National Portrait Gallery and the portraits in the White House is like an art history and history lesson rolled into one. Portraits from Norman Rockwell’s surprisingly approachable painting of Richard Nixon to Chuck Close’s chards of color painting of Clinton are as varied as their administrations and artistic sensibilities of the American public. These artists have a unique and relevant voice. I’m looking forward to seeing what they produce.


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