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Barack Obama picks Kehinde Wiley to paint his portrait

The portrait artist famed for his depictions of Michael Jackson, Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J and more will create the presidential image

Former U.S president Barack Obama has chosen Kehinde Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait.

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery announced the brilliant choice: Wiley is a famed portrait artist, known for his stunning, expansive paintings that subvert the canon of Western art and depict modern black artists in grand, noble settings, with musicians such as LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash, Biggie and more. His recent major exhibition, Trickster, lushly illustrated black artists from Derrick Adams to Sanford Biggers, Nick Cave and Rashid Johnson.

Amy Sherald has also been commissioned to create Michelle Obama’s portrait – the Baltimore-based artist is renowned for her beautiful renditions of her black subjects in grayscale, set against technicolour backgrounds in bright clothing. Sherald and Wiley are the first black artists commissioned to do presidential portraiture.

“What we haven’t done historically is make space for the ‘peripheral’ voices,” Wiley told Dazed, when speaking about his Trickster exhibition. “We haven’t seen people who happen to look like me in many of the great museums around the world and I think it’s an exciting time to polish off a language that is to some extent stale.”

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC will unveil the pieces some time in 2018.