- The Obama Portraits are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago June 18-August 25
- For Illinois Residents, museum admission will be free June 18–25, the first week that The Obama Portraits will be on view. To reserve free admission tickets, Illinois residents must reserve a ticket online in advance. Resident status will be verified using the zip code associated with your billing address.
Featured artist: Kehinde Wiley
New York-based visual artist Kehinde Wiley painted President Barack Obama’s official presidential portrait, which was added to the presidential portraits wing of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2018.
For an in-person look at Wiley’s earlier work, visit the Main Library‘s third floor to see Wiley’s Easter Realness #2, a jewel in the library’s permanent art collection. Purchased in 2004 from the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, the painting now overlooks the Main Library’s third-floor study rooms.
Framed in gilded gold, the painting’s vivid colors evoke the candy-colored dresses and suits that might be worn to an Easter mass. The men in Wiley’s painting, however, wear casual urban clothing—lug-soled boots, hooded sweatshirts, and baggy jeans—and seem to float in a background of robin’s-egg blue.
Wiley, whose paintings have been featured on the Fox drama Empire, and who was one of seven artists to receive a 2015 U.S. State Department Medal of Arts, blurs the line between traditional and modern in his work, borrowing from Old Master paintings, hip-hop, French rococo, and West African textile design. According to Wiley’s website, his paintings “quote historical sources and position young black men within the field of power.” In his Easter Realness series, Wiley asked random strangers from the streets of Harlem to assume their own versions of poses shown in classical European portraits of aristocrats and noblemen.