Painted portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are set to begin touring the country next year so Americans interested in seeing them can make the “pilgrimage.”
Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald are the first black artists ever included in the National Portrait Gallery’s (NPG) official roster of presidential portraits.
The portraits are set to tour from June 2021 through May 2022, according to National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet, who said the depictions have proven extremely popular.
“Viewing these paintings was turning into a form of secular pilgrimage, and the museum was becoming even more popular as a communal gathering place,” Sajet wrote in a 2019 article for The Atlantic.
According to an NPG security guard, identified only as “Rhonda” in the piece, one woman even fell to her knees and prayed before the pictures.
“No other painting gets the same kind of reactions. Ever,” Sajet said she was told.
“Since the unveiling of these two portraits of the Obamas, the Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors, not only to view these works in person, but to be part of the communal experience of a particular moment in time,” said Sajet in a statement.
She described the tour as “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.”