Barack and Michelle Obama's official portraits to go on tour across the US

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery announced that the celebrated Obama portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald will soon travel to five major US museums.

The nearly year-long tour will commence June 18, 2021 with a stop at the Art Institute of Chicago, before concluding on May 30, 2022 at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.

The portraits will also be on view at Brooklyn Museum (August 27 to October 24, 2021), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (November 5 to January 2, 2022) and Atlanta's High Art Museum (January 14 to March 13, 2022).

The National Portrait Gallery's director Kim Sajet explained that this initiative aims at engaging with communities nationwide that may not be able to travel to Washington DC to see these critically-acclaimed portraits

"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," he declared in a statement.

Wiley and Sherald made history when they became the first African-American artists commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create official portraits of a US president and his First Lady.

Wiley's portrait of Barack Obama depicts the 44th President of the United States solemnly sitting in a chair with his arms crossed, against a background of dense and verdant foliage.

By contrast, Sherald represented the former First Lady in the artist's signature grey skin tones, with Michelle Obama wearing a black-and-white gown printed with geometric shapes from American designer Michelle Smith.

In their first year on view, the portraits attracted so many visitors that the National Portrait Gallery saw its attendance figures nearly double, reaching a record of 2.3 million.