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The Obamas Helped the National Portrait Gallery Break a Visitor Record

The Obamas Helped the National Portrait Gallery Break a Visitor Record

Photo: Matt McClain/Getty Images  

The official portraits of forever President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, were unveiled on February 12, 2018. Since then, the National Portrait Gallery "had a record-breaking 2.3 million visitors in 2018, about a million more than in 2017," reports the Washington Post. The reason why? Two words: The Obamas. 

Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

Their portraits were painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, who after being selected by the Obamas became the first Black artists to be commissioned to paint a presidential couple for the National Portrait Gallery. In its first year of being added to the historic art museum, the Obamas' portraits have not only helped increase visits by one million, but they have inspired many. 

"They have brought in so many people,” volunteer Mary Francis Koerner said. “After 4:30 there’s an uptick of the younger generation, and that’s who they come to see."

One memorable guest is Parker Curry, the two-year-old little girl who was photographed looking up at Michelle Obama's portrait in complete admiration. 

Photo: Ben Hines

During Tershia Ellis' visit to the National Portrait Gallery, she took a photo with her children, Zaryus, 10, and Zoey, 7 in front of President Obama's portrait. "We love the Obamas. We're deeply into them," she said.

Her son Zaryus said: “He's the first Black president" and it's "amazing because of all of the flowers representing the places he’s from." 

National Portrait Gallery director, Kim Sajet, calls the record increase in visits “the Obama effect." We call it Black excellence.