ATLANTA — The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will be on display at Atlanta's High Museum.

A five-city tour exhibiting the portraits kicks off in Chicago during the summer of 2021. Then the portraits will make an appearance in Atlanta from Jan. 14 through March 13 in 2022. 

The High Museum is the "exclusive Southeast venue" in the cross-country tour. The world-renowned portraits will also be featured in the Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The portraits were created by Kehinde Wiley and Georgia native Amy Sherald, the first African American artists to be selected to do the official portraits of a president or first lady in the National Portrait Gallery. 

The purpose of the tour is to "engage communities nationwide throughout the next four years," according to a press release from the National Portrait Gallery.

“We view the country as our community,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said.

The organization believes the tour will open up the portraits to millions of people who may not be able to visit them in Washington, D.C. 

“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. 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.

The tour will also feature an audio-visual element, Portrait Gallery led teacher workshops, and curational presentations in each location, the press release revealed. The organization also plans to release a book in partnership with Princeton University Press.

RELATED: National Portrait Gallery unveils Obama portraits

Obama Portraits
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The paintings were unveiled Feb. 12, 2018, joining nearly 1600 portraits of U.S. presidents at the National Portrait Gallery. Shortly after, the paintings went viral across a plethora of social media platforms. 

The official dates of the tour: 

  • Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago—June 18, 2021–Aug. 15, 2021
  • Brooklyn Museum; Brooklyn, New York—Aug. 27, 2021–Oct. 24, 2021
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Los Angeles—Nov. 5, 2021–Jan. 2, 2022
  • High Museum of Art; Atlanta—Jan. 14, 2022–March 13, 2022
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston—March 25, 2022–May 30, 2022

This isn't the first time the National Portrait Gallery has gone on tour for a president. The organization went on tour from 1998 to 2000 (“Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century," 2000 to 2005 (“Portraits of the Presidents from the National Portrait Gallery”) and 2002 to 2004 (“George Washington: A National Treasure”). 

A spokesperson for the High Museum said the official exhibition opening will be released closer to the date. 


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