Nigerian Artist Kehinde Wiley, known for his paintings of African-Americans and reinterpretations of classic artworks, has been chosen by former President Barack Obama to paint his official portrait for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Obama selected New-York based Kehinde to paint his presidential portrait, as following a tradition that started with George H. Bush, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery commissions an artist to create a portrait of the president and the first lady after their tenure.
Obama’s predecessors have preferred to sit for 90-year old portrait artist, Everett Raymond Kinstler, who has painted eight US presidents, but Obama chose to go with Kehinde.
Former first lady Michelle Obama chose Baltimore-based painter Amy Sherald to paint her portrait. Both Kehinde and Amy will be the first black artists to create official presidential portraits.
Kehinde is known for lush, larger-than-life portraits that overlay black street culture with European classical motifs. He is believed to be an exciting choice for the presidential portrait.
Kehinde’s mother supported his interest in art and enrolled him in after-school art classes when he was a child. He earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale University, School of Art in 2001.
Kehinde was born to a Nigerian dad and an African-American mom. He did not grow up with his father, so at the age of 20, he traveled to Nigeria to explore his roots and meet him.