Michelle Obama's Official African White House Portrait UnveiledFeatured video

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https://www.thewrap.com/obama-portrait-artist-kehinde-wiley-black-women-decapitating-white-women/

 

Obamas unveil their official portraits as former president compliments artist for capturing Michelle's 'hotness' while Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks applaud

  • Former President Barack Obama's portrait was created by artist Kehinde Wiley
  • Michelle Obama's portrait painted by Amy Sherald was unveiled first at the event
  • The new paintings of the former president and first lady will be hung in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
  • Michelle Obama noted that she had a 'kind of sister-girl connection' with Sherald
  • Obama joked that he had asked Wiley to make his hair less gray and his ears smaller in his portrait

 

 

Former President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were joined by a who's who of their administration – and some Hollywood types too – for the official unveiling of their portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

'That's pretty sharp,' the ex-president said as he and artist Kehinde Wiley pulled the cloth off Obama's portrait, which showed the Democrat in a tie-less get-up, seated, surrounded by a floral motif. 

Michelle Obama's portrait, created by Amy Sherald, had been unveiled first, and the former president quickly applauded the artist for capturing the 'hotness of the woman that I love.'

Former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand beside their portraits after their unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, on Monday
 

Former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand beside their portraits after their unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, on Monday

 

 

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The Obamas unveiled their official portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Barack chose Kehinde Wiley as his artist while Michelle went with Amy Sherald who created an interesting piece of the former First Lady wearing a Milly dress using a greyscale technique.

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Obama admires his portrait, created by New York City-based artist Kehinde Wiley, at its unveiling on Monday
 

Obama admires his portrait, created by New York City-based artist Kehinde Wiley, at its unveiling on Monday

First lady Michelle Obama (left) and President Obama (right) wait to see their portraits unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery Monday morning 
 

First lady Michelle Obama (left) and President Obama (right) wait to see their portraits unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery Monday morning 

President Obama (right) and artist Kehinde Wiley (left) pull the cloth off the president's official portrait Monday at the National Portrait Gallery 
 

President Obama (right) and artist Kehinde Wiley (left) pull the cloth off the president's official portrait Monday at the National Portrait Gallery 

Michelle Obama (left) pulls the cloth off her portrait at its official unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery alongside the artist, Amy Sherald (right) 
 

Michelle Obama (left) pulls the cloth off her portrait at its official unveiling at the National Portrait Gallery alongside the artist, Amy Sherald (right) 

Michelle Obama (left) claps at the finished product, saying of artist Amy Sherald (right) that they had a 'sister-girl' type connection 
 

Michelle Obama (left) claps at the finished product, saying of artist Amy Sherald (right) that they had a 'sister-girl' type connection 

Upon taking the podium, former first lady Michelle Obama apologized to the two artists, noting how they had to come into the Oval Office to interview with the president and herself in order to get picked for the job 
 

Upon taking the podium, former first lady Michelle Obama apologized to the two artists, noting how they had to come into the Oval Office to interview with the president and herself in order to get picked for the job 

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Both of the Obamas talked about the intimate process of getting their portrait painted, including the fact that each artist had to interview with the then-president and first lady in the Oval Office.

'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,' the former FLOTUS told the two artists, saying her first order of business was to apologize to them for making them go through those grillings.

The Obamas noted how neither had sat for a portrait before, with the ex-president calling attention to his high school yearbook photo saying it was 'no great shakes.'  

'I am a little overwhelmed to say the least,' the former first lady confessed upon seeing the work, which depicted the style icon wearing a patterned Milly dress, specifically designed for the sitting. 

Michelle Obama said she was drawn to Sherald immediately, calling the bespectacled portraitist 'cute' and 'fly.'

The former first lady particularly liked that Sherald, who was a contender for either portrait, dared to say in front of the president, 'Mrs. Obama, I'm really hoping that you can I can work together.'

'And after that, she and I started talking and Barack kind of faded into the woodwork,' Michelle Obama said, noting she had 'that kind of sister-girl connection' with Sherald.

Obama greets artist Kehinde Wiley during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington
 

Obama greets artist Kehinde Wiley during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington

Los Angeles-native Kehinde Wiley (left) is a New York City-based artist known for his contemporary portraits. His last work  displayed at the Portrait Gallery were of hip-hop artists 
 

Los Angeles-native Kehinde Wiley (left) is a New York City-based artist known for his contemporary portraits. His last work  displayed at the Portrait Gallery were of hip-hop artists 

Obama joked that he asked Wiley to darken his hair - which had grown gray during his presidency - for the portrait
 

Obama joked that he asked Wiley to darken his hair - which had grown gray during his presidency - for the portrait

Obama pretends to take a selfie as he looks at his portrait by artist Kehinde Wiley after its unveiling Monday at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. 
 

Obama pretends to take a selfie as he looks at his portrait by artist Kehinde Wiley after its unveiling Monday at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. 

Obama said that Wiley wanted to make the portrait more grandiose than having the former POTUS simply sit in a chair. Wiley later said that the former president was lying 
 

Obama said that Wiley wanted to make the portrait more grandiose than having the former POTUS simply sit in a chair. Wiley later said that the former president was lying 

'Like a sketch by a sixth grader': Outcry that Michelle Obama's portrait looks nothing like her - while Barack's is compared to to Beyonce's birth announcement

While President Obama's striking portrait by Kehinde Wiley garnered audible gasps of awe from the audience, Michelle's portrait was not as warmly welcomed.

Many online said that Amy Sherald's portrait didn't even look like Michelle.

Many were unimpressed when Mrs Obama's portrait was unveiled on Monday

 
 
 John Legend's wife Chrissy Teigen was among the many to tweet about Mrs Obama's portrait
 

 John Legend's wife Chrissy Teigen was among the many to tweet about Mrs Obama's portrait

 
 
 
 
 
Some said Mrs Obama's portrait looked like a child's art project 
 

Some said Mrs Obama's portrait looked like a child's art project 

 
 
 

Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, right, was commissioned to do the portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

President Obama's portrait, by Kehinde Wiley, was also unveiled on Monday

Many on social media said that Mrs Obama's portrait didn't look like the former first lady

John Legend's wife Chrissy Teigen was among the many to tweet about Mrs Obama's portrait

'Amy Sherald should have met Michelle Obama before making that portrait,' one user wrote.

Others went so far as to criticize the artist's skill, comparing the work to a kid's art project.

'Okay legit that Michelle Obama portrait looks like a sketch by a sixth grader,' Twitter user Ashley Rae wrote.

The Obamas were seeing the portraits for the first time on Monday, so the crowd at the Smithsonian gallery got to see their reactions in real time.

Some pointed out that President Obama's portrait looked like Beyonce's birth announcement. But others said it was clear that Beyonce was actually influenced by Wiley, the artist who made Obama's portrait

One Twitter user said it looked like Mr Obama was more pleased with his own portrait, than with his wife's.

Some pointed out that President Obama's portrait looked like Beyonce's birth announcement. But others said it was clear that Beyonce was actually influenced by Wiley, the artist who made Obama's portrait 
 

Some pointed out that President Obama's portrait looked like Beyonce's birth announcement. But others said it was clear that Beyonce was actually influenced by Wiley, the artist who made Obama's portrait 

 
 
One Tweet pointed to the alleged time former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hid in the bushes to stay away from the media
 

One Tweet pointed to the alleged time former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hid in the bushes to stay away from the media

'You can actually see Barack Obama do a "yikes, that's awful" double take looking at Michelle Obama's portrait, then back at his cool one,' Twitter user Tim Young wrote.

For the record, President Obama complimented Sherald's work during the ceremony, saying it captured his wife's 'hotness' among other things.

While President Obama's portrait was more well received, some did point out that his looked an awful lot like Beyonce's birth announcement.

Others pointed out that it was likely the other way around, since several art experts pointed to Wiley as an inspiration when Beyonce's pictures were released last year.

Wiley is currently one of the most influential black painters, for the way he paints African-Americans in the Old Masters style - inserting them into an historical art period that they were largely excluded from due to slavery.

Some said Mrs Obama's portrait looked like a child's art project

 

 

The ex-president joked that he had bonded with Wiley too, but 'maybe not in the same way as this whole-sister girl thing.'

'We shook hands,' Obama said with a straight face.

The ex-president also said that he had asked Wiley to change certain things about his appearance, including making his hair – which was jet black when he entered the White House – less grey, and shrinking his trademark big ears.

Obama also said that Wiley wanted to make the portrait more grandiose than having the former POTUS simply sit in a chair. 

'I had to explain that I have enough political problems,' Obama said, suggesting that the artist wanted to mount him on a horse, among other ideas. 'Gotta bring it down just a touch.'

When it was Wiley's turn to speak he called the star of his painting out.

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama unveils her portrait at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, on Tuesday
 

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama unveils her portrait at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, on Tuesday

 

Sherald is a painter based in Baltimore, Maryland, whose known for her social justice themes and takes on political, cultural and social identities
 

Sherald is a painter based in Baltimore, Maryland, whose known for her social justice themes and takes on political, cultural and social identities

Michelle Obama said she was drawn to Sherald immediately, calling the bespectacled portraitist 'cute' and 'fly' 
 

Michelle Obama said she was drawn to Sherald immediately, calling the bespectacled portraitist 'cute' and 'fly' 

Obama stopped to admire the portrait of Michelle as he stood on stage for his own portrait's unveiling 
 

Obama stopped to admire the portrait of Michelle as he stood on stage for his own portrait's unveiling 

 

Amy Sherald: The social justice-focused artist chosen to paint Michelle Obama's National Gallery portrait

For Michelle Obama's portrait, the National Portrait Gallery commissioned Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald.

The Columbus, Georgia, native, 44, was chosen by Michelle Obama to create the portrait of the former First Lady.

Sherald is known for the social justice themes in her paintings, as well as her takes on political, cultural and social identities.

Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald (right) was chosen to create the portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama
 

Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald (right) was chosen to create the portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama

She often paints black skin tones in shades of gray to remove 'color' from her subjects, according to CNN.

She told the Ledger-Enquirer that her paintings look at every day people from new perspectives.

'I'm painting the paintings that I want to see in museums,' she said. 'And I'm hopefully presenting them in a way that's universal enough that they become representative of something different than just a black body on a canvas.'

She has said that her work takes inspiration from photographs of African Americans in the 1800s and early 1900s.

The Georgia native graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004.

She was the first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery's 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. 

Her winning piece, Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance), was hung at the Smithsonian until January 2017.

Sherald is known for the social justice themes in her paintings, as well as her takes on political, cultural and social identities
 

Sherald is known for the social justice themes in her paintings, as well as her takes on political, cultural and social identities

Sherald is the first African-American woman to create an official First Lady portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

Michelle and Barack Obama interviewed Sherald in the Oval Office when deciding who would paint the first lady's portrait.

'I was intrigued before she walked into the room,' Michelle Obama said, adding that the pair had ''that kind of sister-girl connection'. 

She said: 'I had seen the work and was blown away by the boldness of her colors and the uniqueness of her subject matter. And then she walked in, and she was fly and poised. She had this lightness and freshness of personality.

'I'm also thinking of girls of color who in the years ahead will come to this place and who will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution.

'I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives, because I was one of those girls.'

 

'So how do you explain that a lot of that is simply not true?' Wiley mused. 'What is true is that this is an insane situation,' said the artist, whose last works hung in the National Gallery were of hip-hop artists. 

Wiley's works are often easily identifiable by their wild backgrounds, with the flowers behind Obama symbolizing places where he has roots: chrysanthemums for Chicago, jasmine for Hawaii and African blue lilies for Kenya for his dad.  

Online the portraits were greeted with mixed reaction with the president's portrait being compared to Beyonce's pregnancy and birth announcements – as the singer had similarly posed in front of a floral backdrop – while many commented that Michelle Obama's muted portrait looked nothing like her. 

The reception in the room was much better, both to the art and to President Trump's predecessor.

Obama told the audience, 'We miss you guys', as the crowd replied almost in unison that they missed the former First Family too.   

Seated several rows away were actor Tom Hanks and Director Steven Spielberg, one of the paintings' donors; also, CBS' Gayle King, also known as Oprah Winfrey's best friend. 

'Special shout-out to my man Joe Biden,' the ex-president said, looking down on his former veep. 

Biden's wife Jill, Michelle Obama noted, wasn't there yet because she got stuck in traffic. 

'And an even more special shout-out to my mother-in-law,' Obama also said to Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, who he applauded for providing his wife with her 'hotness genes.'

Obama told the audience, 'We miss you guys', as the crowd replied almost in unison that they missed the former First Family too
 

Obama told the audience, 'We miss you guys', as the crowd replied almost in unison that they missed the former First Family too

While speaking to the crowd, Obama gave a shoutout to Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, who he applauded for providing his wife with her 'hotness genes.'
 

While speaking to the crowd, Obama gave a shoutout to Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, who he applauded for providing his wife with her 'hotness genes.'

Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama applaud during the unveiling of their portraits on Monday
 

Obama sits with former first lady Michelle Obama applaud during the unveiling of their portraits on Monday

The former First Couple were joined by former Vice President Joe Biden and a number of celebrities at the portrait unveiling 
 

The former First Couple were joined by former Vice President Joe Biden and a number of celebrities at the portrait unveiling 

Vice President Joe Biden is seen walking into the event. First lady Michelle Obama volunteered the info that Biden's wife Jill wasn't there because she was stuck in traffic 
 

Vice President Joe Biden is seen walking into the event. First lady Michelle Obama volunteered the info that Biden's wife Jill wasn't there because she was stuck in traffic 

The attendees included actor Tom Hanks (center) who was captured speaking to artists Amy Sherald (left) and Kehinde Wiley (right)
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