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Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. has added two new pieces to its historic presidential portraits with former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, CNN reports.

The portraits, unveiled Monday, are now part of the only complete collection of portraits of presidents outside the White House, and they’re also the first presidential portraits by African-American artists to enter the gallery.

The portrait of Obama, by artist Kehinde Wiley, a Yale University-trained painter famous for his depiction of African-Americans, featured him sitting on a chair with his arms folded, and juxtaposed against a lush, green background.

Speaking during the unveiling, Obama joked that he tried to negotiate less gray hair and smaller ears. “I tried to negotiate less gray hair and Kehinde’s artistic integrity would not allow (him) to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well.”

For Michelle Obama’s painting, she chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, known for her portraits that tend to underscore themes of social justice, which featured Michelle Obama’s skin tone in gray as a way to take away the assigned “color” of her subjects, while donning a patterned evening dress and set against a plain blue background.

The former first lady said she was thinking about the impact of Sherald’s work: “They will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution … And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls.”

For additional details, be sure to read the full story on CNN.

Also, in case you missed it, President Obama talks “Dad Dance Moves” in this new Netflix interview.

  • Source: CNN
  • Image: Kehinde Wiley
  • Image: Amy Sherald
Words by Renz Ofiaza
Staff Writer

scribbling by day, architect by night