Obama portraits to go on tour, beginning at their first date spot in Chicago
"This is the location that has shaped the arc of their professional lives, and it's where they started their family. It's a homecoming," said Art Institute Director of Interpretation Emily Fry.
The portraits of former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama are heading to Chicago. In a tour organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery that will span a year and five cities across the country, the artworks by painters Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley will leave D.C. for the first time, PEOPLE reports.
Though their first kiss was at a Baskin Robbins in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, the Obamas first official date kicked off at the Art Institute of Chicago and ended with a trip to the movies to see Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.
Both of the Obamas have written about the genesis of their relationship in their memoirs, Becoming and Promised Land, and have talked about it in numerous interviews. “It was a cool date. We spent the whole day together. He was showing me all facets of his character. So we went to the Art Institute,” said the former First Lady.
The Obamas’ portraits will be held at the Art Institute of Chicago from June 18-August 15 and presented right next to each other for the first time. “It was particularly exciting that Chicago was chosen to be the very first stop and it’s something that we really want to honor, because the Obamas and Chicago are inextricably linked,” Art Institute Director of Interpretation Emily Fry told PEOPLE.
“This is the location that has shaped the arc of their professional lives, and it’s where they started their family. It’s a homecoming.”
The Obamas’ portraits were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in 2018 and are the first official portraits of a president and first lady portraits painted by Black artists. At the tour exhibits, there will be audio and visual materials, educational workshops and presentations, according to the National Portrait Gallery website.
“The Obamas have this long history of collecting and presenting — even during the Obama-era in the White House — art that really pushed the boundaries of historical cannon,” Fry told PEOPLE. “They often represented Black artists in their collection and when they had this opportunity to select artists to paint their own portraits, I imagine that really shaped their decision.”
The National Portrait Gallery has seen a record a number of visitors since the Obama portraits arrived, according to its director Kim Sajet. Now more people will get to see the historic works as they make stops in Chicago, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston.
“This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people in the beauty of dialogue and shared experience,” Sajet said in a statement.
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