Parties: The Obama Portraits’ SF Stopover

by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

With only two portraits, the patrons’ opening and cocktail reception on June 10 for The Obama Portraits Tour at the de Young Museum was a wow for guests and donors, whose support ensured that this special exhibition is free every Saturday.

On view through August 14, the exhibition — starring groundbreaking portraits of former President Barack Obama (by SF Art Institute alum Kehinde Wiley) and first lady Michelle Obama (by Amy Sherald) — was organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and curated here by Timothy Burgard of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s American Art wing.

The paintings — the first-ever presidential portraits that awarded commissions to African American artists — were originally unveiled in 2018 in Washington, D.C., and are making this one stop in Northern California on their national tour.

“These portraits are a dramatic break from official presidential portraits of the past. They challenge what normal is, creating a new normal of hope and opportunity. How amazing is that?” enthused Mayor London Breed. “The Obamas represent a profound hope for our country — not only for African Americans, but for all the American people. These paintings express excitement about what is possible. And that without barriers or racism, we can come together and provide opportunities for everyone.”

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