artnet | by Sarah Cascone

The Obama Portraits Have Boosted Attendance to the National Portrait Gallery by More Than 300 Percent. Since the paintings went on view last Tuesday, 72,146 people have visited the museum.

The lines were out the door at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, this weekend, as crowds flocked to see the new official portraits for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The two paintings, by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, were unveiled to great fanfare last week, becoming a viral sensation.

The Obamas made history by commissioning the first African-American artists to paint official portraits for the president and the first lady. The couple has a strong interest in contemporary art, which is reflected in the works, both a marked departure from the traditional representation figurative painting typically favored by presidential portraitists. Wiley painted Barack seated against a vibrant background of green foliage, while Sherald referenced black-and-white photography by rendering Michelle’s skin in shades of gray.

A representative from the museum told artnet News that the institution’s website has seen a huge uptick in traffic thanks to the new portraits. Over the past year, the average number of daily sessions was just 1,875. By comparison, the NPG is averaging 23,680 web visits per day for the month of February. That peaked last week, with 399,192 visits between Sunday, February 11, and Thursday, February 15, or 79,838 sessions per day. (The new #myNPG hashtag, introduced alongside the new portraits, also racked up 98 million impressions…read more

Image | Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama (2018), detail | Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.