Barack Obama Taps Nigerian artist, Kehinde Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait

Following a tradition that started with George H. Bush, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery commissions, Former US president Barack Obama has selected Nigeria New-York based artist, Kehinde Wiley, to paint his official portrait.the Obamas’ portraits will be revealed in early 2018.
Kehinde New York-based portrait painter who is known for his highly naturalistic paintings of black people in heroic poses is to create a portrait of the Ex-president while Amy Sherald will paint the first lady after their tenure Obama’s predecessors have preferred to sit for 90-year old portrait artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, who has painted eight US presidents, but Obama chose to go with Kehinde. The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery made the announcement yesterday.

Kehinde was born to a Nigerian Father and an African-American mother. He did not grow up with his father, so at the age of 20, he traveled to Nigeria to explore his roots and meet him.

Kehinde’s mother supported his interest in art and enrolled him in after-school art classes when he was a child. He earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale University, School of Art in 2001

Kehinde Wiley is known for lush, larger-than-life portraits that overlay black street culture with European classical motifs. He is believed to be an exciting choice for the presidential portrait. Throughout his career, Kehinde has become renowned for creating portraits of African American men, including the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Michael Jackson.

Former first lady Michelle Obama has chosen Baltimore-based painter Amy Sherald to paint her portrait. Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald will be the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian.

Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement on the site,”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,”

“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.”

This will mark the first time that black artists were hired by the Smithsonian to create a portrait of a former president since they started commissioning portraits in 1994, though the White House did commission a black Alabaman artist, Simmie Knox, to paint the Clintons in 2000.

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