Obama Selects Gay Artist Kehinde Wiley to Paint Smithsonian Portrait

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Barack Obama (left) has selected gay artist Kehinde Wiley to paint his Smithsonian portrait. (Washington Blade photo of Obama by Michael Key; photo of Wiley by Kwaku Alston)

(WB) Former President Barack Obama has selected as the artist to paint his official portrait for the Smithsonian gay portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, the museum announced Monday.

Known for his highly naturalists paintings of black people in heroic poses, Wiley uses bold, vibrant colors in his work, which highlights the status of young black men in contemporary culture.

Although he identifies as gay, Wiley said in an interview with the New York Times in 2015 his sexual orientation “is not black and white.”

“I’m a gay man who has occasionally drifted,” Wiley said. “I am not bi. I’ve had perfectly pleasant romances with women, but they weren’t sustainable. My passion wasn’t there. I would always be looking at guys.’”

Selected by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait is Amy Sherald, first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement the museum is “absolutely delighted” the artists agreed to paint the official portraits of the couple.

“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,” Sajet said.

According to the Smithsonian, both portraits will be unveiled at the museum in early 2018, then will be added to the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.

After each presidency, the museum work with the White House to commission one official portrait of the president, and another of his spouse. Two sets of official portraits are made: One for the White House and one for the National Portrait Gallery. The museum began this practice with former President George H.W. Bush.

 

— Chris Johnson, Washington Blade courtesy of the LGBTQ Media Association.

 


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