Obama Portraits Revealed to Have Cost $500000 as Criticism of Paintings Grows

Before the

Former vice president Joe Biden chatted with VIP guests across the aisle, including one of the National Portrait Gallery's commissioners Randi Levine. It was a odd enough for a presidential portrait that even CNN declared it to be a portrait of "the lonely president".

A few others noticed similarities between Barack's portrait and Beyoncé's iconic maternity portrait.

For his painting, Obama chose artist Kehinde Wiley who painted the president fading into the bushes.

GREG ALLEN
GREG ALLEN

Former U.S. President Barack Obama stands next to his newly unveiled portrait during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Wiley's portrait of Obama was unveiled Monday morning.

In contrast to the blunt literalism of those who prefer to interpret these paintings as a celebration of racial violence, art critic Walter Robinson writes that Wiley's take on Judith and Holofernes "suggests, with a jovial brutality, that Judith would prefer to be done with white standards of beauty".

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The former first lady expressed she was a little overwhelmed that her "amazing portrait" would hang among "so many iconic figures". Not only is it the first African American presidential couple in its gallery but was created by the first black artists to ever paint the presidents for its institution. Wiley said that being the first black painter to paint the first black president of the U.S. "Barack Obama is the real Black Panther". "I knew I wanted something that was colorful, something that had a bold kind of pattern on it".

The other painting can be found under Wiley's 2012 collection titled "An Economy of Grace" and was described by the artist himself as a "play on the "kill whitey" thing."

Her work focuses on African-American subjects, often painted against brilliantly colored backgrounds, and sometimes holding an object (an oversized coffee cup, or a bunch of balloons) that gives the image a sense of the surreal.

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"I had to explain that I've got enough political problems without you making me look like Napoleon", he said jokingly.

Michelle is a great-great-granddaughter of slaves, a fact she always said in her eight years in the White House to demonstrate the hard progress of her ethnic group.

Then the NPG's director, Kim Sajet, and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton appeared from behind the curtain, followed by artists Sherald and Wiley, and then Michelle and Barack Obama. Ultimately, the former First Lady chose a look that was almost identical to that from the runway, save for a slightly more covered dress.

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To say that public response was "mixed", though technically accurate, does not quite do justice to a gobsmacked public's immediate and ongoing reaction to the unveilings.

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