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Obama praises wife’s ‘hotness’ in new portraits

This was the first time official presidential portraits had been painted by African American artists
Image: It is the first time African American artists have done the portraits

The official presidential portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama have been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

Both were in attendance on Monday, with the paintings marking the first time African American artists have been commissioned to paint the official portraits.

New York painter Kehinde Wiley, known for his naturalistic artwork depicting black people in heroic and triumphant poses, was tasked with Mr Obama’s portrait.

Mr Obama described Mr Wiley's work as 'extraordinary'
Image: Mr Obama described Kehinde Wiley’s work as ‘extraordinary’

“I tried to negotiate less grey hairs, but Kehinde’s integrity would not allow him to do what I asked,” joked Mr Obama.

He described the portrait, which depicts him sitting on a wooden chair against a colourful, leafy backdrop, as “extraordinary”, adding: “It’s my great honour to be here. It means so much to us.”

Mr Wiley, a Yale University graduate, took thousands of photographs of the 44th US president in order to perfect the portrait, which will be on show in the America’s Presidents exhibition.

Baltimore artist Amy Sherald was commissioned to do Mrs Obama’s portrait, less than two years after she became the first to win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Michelle Obama and Amy Sherald unveil the former first lady's portrait
Image: Michelle Obama and Amy Sherald unveiled the portrait

“I’m a little overwhelmed, humbled and proud,” said Mrs Obama, who praised the portrait as “amazing”.

Addressing Ms Sherald, Mr Obama added: “I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace, and beauty, and intelligence, and charm… and hotness, of the woman that I love.

“I am in awe of Kehinde’s gifts, and what he and Amy have given to this country and to the world, and we are both very grateful to have been the focus of their attention for this moment.”

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Mrs Obama’s large-scale painting will also go on display at the gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution.

The gallery was packed for the unveiling, with director Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks among the famous faces in the audience.

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