Artist Kehinde Wiley, best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans, will create the portrait of Barack Obama for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.


The gallery made the announcement during the recent commissioning of the museum’s official portraits of the former US president and his wife Michelle.

Wiley, personally selected by Obama, is known for painting Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Ice T, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Michael Jackson, among others.

Wiley first showed interest in painting Obama in 2008 when he said: “I’d love, love, love to do his official presidential portrait. I’m actively campaigning.”


He continued his “campaign” in 2012 when he told BBC that: “I think it would be really interesting to paint Obama.

“I’ve done several studies in the past, I’ve sort of worked out different strategies about how that would be, but it’s a very curious possibility. We’ll see where that goes.”

Michelle Obama picked Amy Sherald to work on her portrait. It will mark the first time that black artists would be hired by the museum to create a portrait of a former president since it started commissioning portraits in 1994.


“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 Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

“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.”

At the end of each presidency, the museum partners the White House to commission one official portrait of the ex-president and one of his spouse.

The Obamas portraits will be unveiled at the museum in early 2018.


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