Chicago is the first stop for the Obama portraits as part of a five-city tour organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. As the family’s longtime home, Chicago has a unique connection to the Obamas, as does the Art Institute. Michelle Obama recalls visiting frequently with her family when she was growing up on the South Side, and the museum was also the site of the couple’s first date.
Not only do the portraits feature history-making subjects but they were made by groundbreaking artists. Wiley and Sherald are the first African Americans to be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create official portraits of a president or first lady. Wiley placed a seated President Obama against a backdrop of flowers with special significance, including chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago. Sherald captured the former first lady against light-blue ground, sitting and gazing directly at the viewer.
The Art Institute is thrilled to provide our visitors—from Chicago and around the world—the opportunity to experience the power and beauty of these celebrated works in our galleries. After the Art Institute presentation, the portraits will travel on to the Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, High Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Inspired by The Obama Portraits, these tours offer different ways to explore artworks throughout the collection.
Engage with The Obama Portraits
We’re celebrating The Obama Portraits all summer long with free community events, virtual programs, and art making. Deepen your connection through unique programs and resources highlighting Chicago artists and exploring artworks from the museum’s permanent collection.
Listen to powerful poems written by Chicago high school teens in response to The Obama Portraits for the Portraits Teen Poetry Competition, a program created in collaboration with the museum’s Teen Council interns and open to all Chicago high schoolers.
Watch Events Celebrating The Obama Portraits
The Obama Portraits Tour is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.
The Art Institute thanks the many supporters who have funded the Chicago presentation, as well as access, education, and programming.
Lead Corporate Sponsor for the Chicago Presentation
Lead Individual Supporters
Lester Coney and Denise Gardner
Corporate Programming Sponsor
Leadership support is contributed by Illinois Tool Works and the Leadership Advisory Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Major funding is provided by the Blanchard-Nesbitt Family; Suzette and Ally Bulley; Francesca and Liam Connell; Anne and Don Edwards; Paul, Dedrea, and Ian Gray, In the Works Foundation; Guida Family Foundation; Cheryl and Eric McKissack; and Peggy A. Montes.
Special support is contributed by Julia Langdon Antonatos and Larry Antonatos, Ariel Investments, Caroline Brown and Cairy Saltwell Brown, Ann Collins, Kevann M. Cooke, Marilyn and Larry Fields, Nickol and Darrel Hackett, Mellody Hobson, Linda Johnson Rice, The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, the Langdon Neal Family, Fay and Daniel Levin, and Marisa Murillo.
Additional support is provided by Jozy Altidore, Azeeza, Chanel Coney, Javon Coney, Don and Kristen Crawley, Allison and Susan Davis, Andrea Ellis, Steven Galanis, Kyle and Ashley Gardner, Andre Iguodala, Olivia John, Jasmine Jordan, Deven Rand, Alexa Rice, and Sloane Stephens.