Obama’s official portrait is very different from past presidents’

The Obamas returned to the public eye Monday for the unveiling of their official portraits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which houses portraits of every past president.

Barack and Michelle Obama each chose an artist to paint their official portrait. The former president chose Kehinde Wiley, a painter famous for his portraits of black figures in iconic and heroic poses. In the painting, Barack Obama is shown sitting in front of a leafy wall.

 Michelle Obama chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, who beat out 2,500 contestants to win the Boochever Portrait Competition in 2016.

Both Obamas gave remarks on the works.

“Look at that: I look pretty sharp,” the former president said of his portrait. “I tried to negotiate less grey hair. … I tried to negotiate smaller ears, struck out on that as well.”

 He also applauded the “hotness” that Sherald captured in her portrait of Michelle.

“Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman that I love,” Barack said.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama looks at former first lady Michelle Obama’s newly unveiled portrait during a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama’s portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama used the moment to call attention to the fact that young people of color — especially young girls of color — will be able to see someone who looks like them among the official presidential portraits at the Smithsonian.


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