Skip to content

portraits of Obama now on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta | News

ATLANTA (CBS46) – The portraits of Obama arrived at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta as part of a year-long five-city tour of major cities across the country.

The iconic piece, which has drawn millions of art admirers since its unveiling in 2018, offers a contemporary take on what has always been a traditional presidential portrait.

But the exhibition is more than two paintings in a large room. The High Museum tells the stories of black artists who captured the Obamas in ways the world had never seen before.

A native of Georgia and alumnus of Clark-Atlanta University, Amy Sherald is the face behind Michelle Obama’s iconic six-foot-tall painting, which captures the former first lady in a flowing, colorful dress reminiscent of the quilts of Gee’s Bend. Her skin, especially painted in grayscale, is not only a response to early portraits of African Americans but also reminds viewers of the absence of blacks in the history of large-scale photography. Sherald’s approach is to challenge his viewer to look beyond superficial racial differences.






portraits of Obama now on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta |  News

During her initial unveiling, the former first lady said:

“I think of all the young people, especially the girls and the colored girls, who in the years to come will come to this place and they will look up and they will see a picture of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall. from this great American institution. I know the kind of impact it will have on their life because I was one of those girls and, when I think of future generations and generations past, I think, again, wow. ”

The seven foot tall portrait of Barack Obama, portrayed by Los Angeles native Kehinde Wiley, shows the President seated against a lush green background with distinct flowers appearing throughout the painting. But, as the exhibition shows, the artwork is more than it looks.

For Wiley, the portrait tells a story. The jasmine flower refers to Hawai’i, where the former president was born. African blue lilies; a tribute to Obama’s father who was from Kenya. The vibrant chrysanthemums are on full display as Chicago’s official flower, the meeting place of Michelle and Barack, and the city where her political career took off.






portraits of Obama now on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta |  News

Wiley’s Take on Obama celebrates true contemporary art while recognizing tradition. The vivid backdrop juxtaposed with a stately pose and a historic wooden chair emphasizes a portrait approach adapted to the modern era.






portraits of Obama now on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta |  News

The High Museum’s Wieland family curator of modern and contemporary art, Michael Rooks, says he hopes people will see themselves both in the artwork of the Obamas and in the stories of the artists who brought them to life. brought to life.

“I hope people come away with the idea that the portrait is alive and well and is particularly relevant today, especially when we think of artists of color and the subjects that are reflected in their work. our room here in Atlanta, in the black city of Georgia, it’s important that people see themselves reflected in what we show on our walls and I think that’s also what was important to conservatives, ”said Rooks .

The portraits of the Obamas will be at the High Museum of Art from January 14 to March 20 before leaving for their next destination at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Due to high demand for this exhibit, an exhibit specific ticket is required for all visitors.

For more information or to purchase a ticket to see the portraits of Obama, click here.