The Smithsonian Channel is commissioning a new documentary about the portraits of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama that have stirred up the art world. An exclusive report from Deadline explains that the film will “see curators, journalists, and art critics discuss the ways that the pair’s portraits disrupted traditional presidential portraiture and spurred museums to reach new audiences.”
“Barack and Michelle Obama continue to inspire individuals and communities nationwide,” Pamela Aguilar of The Smithsonian Channel told Deadline.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to premiere Picturing the Obamas and explore the cultural impact of their portraits at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and this historic presidency.”
The portraits of the couple are historic for a number of reasons. Not only did it mark the first portrait of a Black President and First Lady, but it also marked the first time that presidential portraits were done by Black artists. Since the portraits were unveiled, attendance at the National Portrait Gallery has reportedly doubled. Last year, the works of Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald also went on a multi-city tour.
“When we unveiled the Obamas’ portraits, everyone in the room knew we were witnessing a moment in history,” National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet explained.
“But I don’t think anyone anticipated the emotional impact these artworks would ultimately have on so many Americans across the country. Through the power of documentary film, Picturing the Obamas takes us out of the gallery and into communities, reminding us that art is powerful and portraiture can change the world.”
Picturing The Obamas is set to debut on September 10, 2022 via The Smithsonian Channel.