Barack and Michelle Obama are coming to Atlanta. To the High Museum, specifically. But not until January 2022.
The High Museum of Art has been chosen as the exclusive Southeastern venue for the National Portrait Gallery’s five-city tour of the former president and first lady’s official portraits.
Atlanta will be the fourth stop on the tour, which begins June 18, 2021, at the Art Institute of Chicago and visits the Brooklyn Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before reaching the High for a January 14–March 12, 2022, run. The tour concludes with a stop at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
The tour will give additional national exposure to the artists behind the portraits — the first African Americans chosen to paint official portraits. Kehinde Wiley painted Barack Obama; Amy Sherald painted Michelle Obama.
Wiley, 42, is a Brooklyn-based artist known for highly naturalistic paintings. He grew up in Los Angeles and was educated at the San Francisco Art Institute and Yale University. He made a name for himself for his naturalistic, brightly colored portraits of young black men, often with dramatic flowery backgrounds and in poses borrowed from the Old Masters. He focuses on black folk, from teenagers he meets on the streets to fellow contemporary artists, and of course, the former president.
Sherald, 46, was born in Columbus, Georgia, and now lives in Baltimore. She has an M.F.A. in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a B.A. in painting from Clark Atlanta University.
In 2018, she received the High Museum’s David C. Driskell Prize, named for the renowned African American artist and scholar. Each year the national award celebrates an early- or mid-career scholar or artist whose work makes an original and important contribution to African American art or art history. Sherald, if you recall, exhibited nine portraits in a 2019 show at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.
In addition to the Obama portraits, the National Portrait Gallery tour will include an audiovisual element, teacher workshops and curatorial presentations.