National Portrait Gallery Engages Audiences Across the Country With Five-City Tour of the Acclaimed Obama Portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald

Tour To Include Chicago, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston Starting June 2021

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced a five-city tour next year of the portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, that will launch during the summer of 2021. Next year, in mid-May 2021, the Obama portraits, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, will temporarily go off view from the museum’s exhibitions for tour preparation.

The official portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama, on permanent view at The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald (Image provided by The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery)

The tour will commence in Chicago, June 18, 2021, and will continue, with the works traveling across the country, through May 30, 2022. This is one of several initiatives being set by the Portrait Gallery to engage communities nationwide throughout the next four years. The artworks are expected to reach millions of people who may not be able to visit Washington, D.C.

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

The paintings were commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and revealed in a special unveiling ceremony Feb. 12, 2018, in the presence of President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, and the artists. Wiley and Sherald are the first African American artists to have been selected for the National Portrait Gallery’s official portraits of a President or First Lady.

In addition to the paintings, the tour will include an audio-visual element, Portrait Gallery-led teacher workshops and curatorial presentations in each location. In anticipation of the tour, the Portrait Gallery is also publishing a book in partnership with Princeton University Press. The Obama Portraits will be released Feb. 11.

With the Obama portraits, the National Portrait Gallery continues its more than 45-year legacy of touring exhibitions. American presidents, in particular, have been the subject of several Portrait Gallery exhibitions. The exhibition “Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century” (1998 to 2000) traveled to several cities as did “Portraits of the Presidents from the National Portrait Gallery” (2000 to 2005). The museum’s acclaimed “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart toured to seven venues in “George Washington: A National Treasure” (2002 to 2004). The National Portrait Gallery’s collection includes more than 1,600 portraits of U.S. presidents and is the nation’s only complete collection of U.S. presidents accessible to the public.

Tour venues include:

  • 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 Art Museum; Atlanta—Jan. 14, 2022–March 13, 2022
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston—March 25, 2022–May 30, 2022
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Smithsonian Poster Exhibition Exploring 1968 Poor People’s Campaign On View at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

This winter, travelers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport can view the Smithsonian poster exhibition “City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.” The exhibition is on view through April 30 in the Gallery Walk located in Historic Terminal A between the Historic Lobby and the present-day ticketing lobby. “City of Hope” honors Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for economic justice and opportunity for every U.S. citizen. It examines the Poor People’s Campaign—a grassroots, multiracial movement that drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C. For 43 days between May and June 1968, demonstrators demanded social reforms while living side-by-side on the National Mall in a tent city known as Resurrection City.

Photo Credit: Woman between tents, Resurrection City, Washington, D.C., 1968
Robert Houston, born 1935. Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Robert and Greta Houston, © Robert Houston

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, “City of Hope” highlights a series of newly discovered photographs and an array of protest signs and political buttons collected during the campaign. Featuring 18 posters, the exhibition can help visitors engage and contextualize the Poor People’s Campaign’s power, impact and historical significance.

Although President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in 1964, tens of millions of Americans were denied livable wages, adequate housing, nutritious food, quality education and health care. Led by King and Ralph David Abernathy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference declared poverty a national human rights issue and organized the Poor People’s Campaign. Stretching 16 acres along the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, Resurrection City housed 3,000 protesters with structures for essential services like sanitation, communications, medical care and childcare. It included a dining tent, cultural center and a city hall on a “Main Street” where groups would gather.

The Poor People’s Campaign marked a key moment in U.S. history and set the stage for future social justice movements. Within months after Resurrections City’s evacuation, major strides were made toward economic equality influencing school lunch programs, rent subsidies and home ownership assistance for low-income families, education and welfare services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and more.

City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign” is on view through the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Art and Exhibits program.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit sites.si.edu.

For the First Time in the US, Visitors Can Experience “Age Old Cities”—A Virtual Journey to the Devastated Sites of Mosul, Aleppo and Palmyra

Immersive Exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art Highlights Importance of the Preservation of Cultural Heritage

Using the most recent digital techniques, the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, take visitors on a virtual tour of three ancient cities—Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

Age Old Cities

The exhibition, located in the Sackler Gallery, highlights the devastation of these historically significant sites but also offers hope for their reconstruction and rehabilitation. By including the testimony of Iraqis and Syrians, the installation underscores the importance of place in the preservation of historical and architectural memory.

Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul” will be on view at the Sackler Gallery from Jan. 25 through Oct. 26. It was organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris, and created in collaboration with Iconem, which specializes in digitizing cultural heritage sites in 3-D, and in partnership with UNESCO. The exhibition offers an immersive experience that emphasizes the importance of preserving the world’s fragile cultural and built heritage.

“‘Age Old Cities’ is a landmark exhibition, not only for its innovative use of digital technology within a museum context, but also for the poignant story it tells,” said Chase F. Robinson, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art. “This exhibition narrates the heartbreaking story of cultural destruction—and resilience—in these cities, and we are proud to be the exhibition’s inaugural U.S. venue. Palmyra, Mosul and Aleppo are cornerstones of world culture, and it is our shared responsibility to ensure that these cities are preserved to continue to tell their rich histories and inspire future generations.”

In the recent past, Iraq and Syria have suffered profound upheavals that have destroyed many significant cultural and religious sites—leaving little of the rich historical past. “Age Old Cities” sheds light on the devastating destruction, the important cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq, and the need to preserve these sites.

The exhibition invites visitors into the heart of each of the three cities with large-scale projections of dynamic imagery and 3-D reconstructions of damaged monuments. The projections shift gradually from destruction to progressive reconstruction. To contextualize the sites, visitors will also see projections of historical photographs of the structures.

Beyond the stones, this heritage is a common good, and safeguarding it is the responsibility of all,” said Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute. “Citizens of every faith, archaeologists and curators have all worked and continue working today hand in hand to shelter, protect and rebuild.”

The exhibition offers more than a visual of potential reconstruction of mostly destroyed sites; it introduces visitors to the people who still live in the cities. Several videos throughout the exhibition feature interviews with residents, as well as archeologists and curators who work at great personal risk to protect and preserve these sites. Other videos explore unique parts of the cities such as the souks (markets) of Aleppo or the tomb of the Three Brothers in Palmyra (an underground burial chamber turned into an ISIS base of operations).

Throughout the run of the exhibition, the museum will offer a series of programs focusing on each city. Programming will include lectures and presentations on architectural heritage and current events, family programs and related film and music programs to enhance the visitor experience, further explore the rich cultures of these cities, as well as the challenges and opportunities of cultural restoration and public policies.

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National Portrait Gallery Presents “John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal”

Exhibition Features 50 Rarely Exhibited Charcoal Drawings by America’s Master Portraitist

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will present a once-in-a-lifetime assemblage of 50 charcoal drawings by American expatriate artist John Singer Sargent. One of the most celebrated and successful portraitists of his day, Sargent abruptly stopped painting portraits in 1907 and produced them almost exclusively in charcoal from then on. He ultimately created several hundred of these highly admired but rarely exhibited works. “John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal” is the first major exhibition to focus solely on his portraits in this medium. The exhibition, which is organized by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, will be on view at the Portrait Gallery Feb. 28 through May 31.

John Singer Sargent, ‘Daisy Fellowes,’ c. 1920, charcoal on paper. Private collection, Columbus, Georgia. Photo by Jim Cawthorne.

Celebrated art historian, former museum director and Sargent descendant Richard Ormond is guest curator of the exhibition. The curator of the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is Robyn Asleson, curator of prints and drawings. The curator of the exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum is Laurel O. Peterson, Moore Curatorial Fellow, Department of Drawings and Prints. Asleson and Ormond will attend the Portrait Gallery’s press preview Feb. 27 from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and Ormond will deliver a public presentation on the artist’s life and legacy Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. The evening program is free, with advance registration at npg.eventbrite.com.

The full scope of Sargent’s technical versatility as a draftsman and his unparalleled powers of observation as a portraitist are on display in these charcoal drawings,” Asleson said. “On view will be portraits of several dozen extraordinary individuals who not only shaped the world Sargent lived in, but also made enduring contributions to history and culture that continue to impact us today. This exhibition will bring visitors face to face with many of the people who helped define our modern era.”

The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition will display portraits of Sargent’s contemporaries, including musicians, actors, artists and patrons, literary figures, political leaders and tastemakers—the “influencers” of Sargent’s day. Visitors will encounter likenesses of Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), Prime Minister Winston Churchill, poet William Butler Yeats, painter Sir William Blake Richmond, actress Ethel Barrymore, civil rights attorney and activist Moorefield Storey and avant-garde art and music patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Also on display will be depictions of Bostonians, the people who made up Sargent’s self-proclaimed American home, and The Souls, a group of intellectual young British aristocrats for whom Sargent served as unofficial portraitist.

The exhibition includes several loans from European private collections and works held by the Morgan Library & Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and other prominent public institutions. “John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal” is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Morgan Library & Museum, New York. The presentation of the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is made possible with lead funding from Ann S. and Samuel M. Mencoff. Additional support is provided by Dr. and Mrs. Paul Carter, Andrew Oliver Jr., and the American Portrait Gala Endowment.

Born in Italy to expatriate American parents, Sargent gained international fame through his dazzling oil portraits of an elite clientele. During the early 20th century, at the height of that success, Sargent astonished the transatlantic art world by suddenly abandoning portraits in oil. For the rest of his life, he primarily explored likeness and identity through the medium of charcoal, producing several hundred portraits of individuals recognized for their accomplishments in fields such as art, music, literature and theater. With his skill in swiftly capturing the essence of his subjects, Sargent was able to produce a finished drawing in under three hours. Often made as tokens of friendship or esteem, these portraits vividly depict some of the most original and creative figures of the early 20th century.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists, whose lives tell the American story.

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at npg.si.edu.

Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Marks 2020 as “Year of the Woman”

Museum Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage With Exhibitions and More

To mark the centennial of women’s suffrage, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will celebrate the “Year of the Woman” in 2020 with two signature exhibitions designed to amplify women’s crucial role in history. On March 6, the museum will open “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage,” and “Girlhood (It’s Complicated)” will open June 12.

The exhibitions will be mounted as part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative #BecauseOfHerStory. The initiative represents one of the country’s most ambitious efforts to collect, document, display and share the compelling story of women, deepening the understanding of women’s contributions to the nation and the world. It amplifies women’s voices to honor the past, inform the present and inspire the future. (Information is available at https://womenshistory.si.edu.)

The spotlight on women’s contributions will shine on other museum projects throughout 2020, including “Picturing Women Inventors,” a display celebrating the contributions of female inventors; “The Only One in the Room,” a showcase exploring women in business as part of theAmerican Enterpriseexhibition; and a focus on diverse female educators in the Giving in America” exhibit. A variety of women’s history programs, and digital and education initiatives will expand this content.

The suffrage centennial exhibitions tie into other museum efforts under the tagline “Who Counts?” demonstrating that women’s history is political history. “Who Counts?” will link the museum’s efforts in collecting, documenting and creating civic engagement programs around the 2020 election, the census, the 15th Amendment and the 19th Amendment. The central messages of “Who Counts?” are broad and provide probing questions about the relationship between citizenship, resources and counting; how categories of belonging and exclusion are created and re-created over time; and how individuals and groups assert that they do count.

Exhibitions and Displays Opening in 2020

Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage” Opens March 6, 2020; closes March 2021

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which recognized women’s right to vote, the museum will open “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage.” Highlighting women’s achievements in winning suffrage, it invites audiences to explore how the country celebrates milestones, what people as a nation remember, what (and who) has been forgotten or silenced over time and how those exclusions helped create the cracks and fissures in a movement that continue to impact women’s politics and activism.

Using a jewel box approach, the museum will display a group of artifacts in conjunction with graphics and media, interweaving stories of the famous and the forgotten. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a 6-foot-tall portrait of Susan B. Anthony. Painted by Sarah J. Eddy in 1900, the work depicts an idealized Anthony being presented with flowers by young boys and girls on her 80th birthday. The exhibition will also feature items donated between 1919 and 1920 by the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (now the League of Women Voters), materials related to Adelaide Johnson and Alice Paul, and contemporary items from the 2017 Women’s March as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.

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Dallas Arboretum Presents Dallas Blooms: Sounds of Spring

Named by Architectural Digest as one of the “15 Breathtaking Botanical Gardens to Visit This Season,” the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden presents Dallas Blooms, the largest annual floral festival in the Southwest, from February 29 to April 12. Themed “Sounds of Spring,” the spring festival showcases an explosion of color from 100 varieties of spring bulbs and more than 500,000 spring-blooming blossoms, thousands of azaleas and hundreds of Japanese cherry trees. Presented by IBERIABANK, Dallas Blooms features six majestic musical topiaries including a harp, guitar, saxophone, bass, violin and piano, some of which are eight feet in length—perfect for photos and social media posts.

Alan Walne, Dallas Arboretum board chairman, said, “Dallas Blooms marks that spring has arrived in the South! We invite the community to experience one of the country’s most colorful floral displays this spring where more than 250,000 people will visit this season.”

Named by Architectural Digest as one of the “15 Breathtaking Botanical Gardens to Visit This Season,” the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden presents Dallas Blooms, the largest annual floral festival in the Southwest, from February 29 to April 12. Themed “Sounds of Spring,” the spring festival showcases an explosion of color from 100 varieties of spring bulbs and more than 500,000 spring-blooming blossoms, thousands of azaleas and hundreds of Japanese cherry trees.

Each week showcases a different genre of music from Texas country to classical rock, including live bands each weekend. Dallas Arboretum‘s A Tasteful Place, a garden that celebrates growing, harvesting and preparing fresh food, also features classes in theme with each music genre.

Reopened for the spring, the nationally acclaimed Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden features 17 indoor/outdoor galleries, 150 interactive science games, four plant labs at new times that vary daily and an abundance of themed adventures throughout the Dallas Blooms festival. The Children’s Adventure Garden is open daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. For a full list of upcoming events and activities, visit www.dallasarboretum.org/childrensadventuregarden.

Throughout the week, there are special days and festivities including Mommy and Me Mondays, Tiny Tot Tuesdays, BOGO Wednesdays and CC Young Senior Living Thursdays.

Mary Brinegar, Dallas Arboretum president and CEO, added, “There is something for everyone at Dallas Blooms, and we’ve been told we have the largest display of tulips in a public garden outside of Holland. As the tulips bloom throughout the festival, the finale is the mass flowering of the garden’s collection of 3,000 azaleas that bloom along with the Japanese cherry trees, ushering in spring with vibrant color everywhere.”

For the latest information, visit www.dallasarboretum.org/blooms.

U.S. Postal Service Issuing Gwen Ifill Black Heritage Forever Stamp Jan. 30

In honor of Black History Month 2020, the U.S. Postal Service will honor one of televison’s best journalists of the past 40 years. The 43rd stamp in the Black Heritage series honors Gwen Ifill, issued in panes of 20, one of the nation’s most esteemed journalists. The stamp art features a photo of Ifill taken in 2008 by photographer Robert Severi. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.

Gwen Ifill was among the first African Americans to hold prominent positions in both broadcast and print journalism.

After graduating from college in 1977, Ifill worked at The Boston Herald American, The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 1994, she took a broadcast job at NBC, where she covered politics in the DC bureau. Five years later, she joined PBS; she became the senior political correspondent for“The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”and moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week in Review” — the first woman and first African American to moderate a major television news-analysis show.

In 2013, she became co-anchor of the “PBS NewsHour,”part of the first all-female team to anchor a national nightly news program. Ifill died in 2016.

Among Ifill’s honors were the Radio Television Digital News Foundation’s Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award (2006), Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center’s Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism (2009) and induction into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame (2012). In 2015, she was awarded the Fourth Estate Award by the National Press Club. She received numerous honorary degrees and served on the boards of the News Literacy Project and the Committee to Protect Journalists, which renamed its Press Freedom Award in her honor.

The 2016 John Chancellor Award was posthumously awarded to Ifill by the Columbia Journalism School. In 2017, the Washington Press Club Foundation and the “PBS NewsHour” created a journalism fellowship named for Ifill. Her alma mater, Simmons University, opened the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities in 2018.

The stamp dedication ceremony is free and open to the public. News of the stamp is being shared with the hashtags #GwenIfillForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.

Customers may purchase stamps and other philatelic products through The Postal Store at www.usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), by mail through USA Philatelic or at Post Office locations nationwide.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.