The High Museum of Art presents the portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, as part of “The Obama Portraits Tour,” organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The portraits will be on view Jan. 14 to March 20, 2022, in the High’s Stent Family Wing special exhibition galleries.
“We are honored to present these portraits as the exclusive Southeastern venue for the tour and to afford our audiences an intimate experience with the works,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “They demonstrate the incredible talents of Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, two artists the Museum holds in high esteem, and serve as important records of a historic period in our nation’s history.”
“We view the country as our community and believe in the power of portraiture to encourage both empathy and inspiration across audiences,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “‘The Obama Portraits Tour’ is an opportunity to meet people where they are, in collaboration with our peer institutions, and offer audiences in different parts of the United States an opportunity to see these portraits firsthand.”
In addition to the portraits, the exhibition will feature an approximately eight-minute video providing background on the commissioning of the portraits by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and putting them into the context of the national collection of presidential portraits. During the run of the exhibition, the High will present public programs including a conversation with the exhibition curators, host student field trips, and offer teachers professional development opportunities presented in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery.
The Portrait Gallery holds the nation’s only complete collection of U.S. presidential portraits that is accessible to the public. It began commissioning presidential portraits in 1994 with George H.W. Bush and commissioned its first portrait of a First Lady in 2006 with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The paintings by Wiley and Sherald are the subject of a richly illustrated book, “The Obama Portraits” (2020), which delves into the making of these two artworks. Published by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in partnership with Princeton University Press, the book, along with merchandise inspired by the artworks, can be purchased at the High Museum Shop and online at museumshop.high.org.
The tour commenced June 18, 2021, at the Art Institute of Chicago and continues through May 30, 2022. Additional tour locations include the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery recognizes the lead donors to the Obama portraits: Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Judith Kern and Kent Whealy; Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia; Clarence, DeLoise and Brenda Gaines; The Stoneridge Fund of Amy and Marc Meadows; Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker; and Catherine and Michael Podell. “The Obama Portraits Tour” is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Support for the national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America. For more on the Portrait Gallery and the full tour schedule, visit npg.si.edu/obamaportraitstour.
Tickets to “The Obama Portraits Tour” will be $8.25 each for the High’s members and $16.50 each for Museum Pass holders and the general public (ages 6 and over).* Admission is free for ages 5 and under, but reservations are required. The ticket includes access to the entire Museum.
Due to the nature and popularity of the exhibition, tickets will be sold for specific time slots. Advance tickets must be purchased through the High’s website. A limited number of 100 tickets will be available each day that the Museum is open for walk-up admission. There are no refunds or exchanges for exhibition tickets, and tickets are nontransferable.
Museum members will have the first chance to purchase tickets from Oct. 11 to Oct. 15, 2021, with ticket sales open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until member tickets are sold out. Museum Pass holders may purchase tickets beginning on Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. and ending on Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. To be eligible to purchase a member ticket, guests must sign up as a Member by Oct. 1, 2021. To be eligible for a Museum Pass ticket, guests must sign up as a Museum Pass holder by Oct. 8, 2021. General admission tickets for “The Obama Portraits Tour” will become available Oct. 25, 2021, until all time slots are reserved.
Cover Photo Caption: “Barack Obama” by Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas, 2018. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the following lead donors for their support of the Obama portraits: Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Judith Kern and Kent Whealy; Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia. © 2018 Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.