Museum unveils Michelle Obama portrait

November 6, 2008 7:38:58 AM PST
An oil painting of Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha was unveiled on Wednesday as part of an exhibition by acclaimed artist Elizabeth Peyton, best known for her images of diverse historical figures and celebrities like Napoleon and Kurt Cobain. "Michelle and Sasha Obama Listening to Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention" depicts the little girl reclining on her mother's lap as Michelle Obama listens intently to her husband accepting the Democratic Party nomination at last August's convention in Denver.

It's part of a larger exhibition of Peyton's work that opened last month at the New Museum on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Many of the more than 100 works are portraits in the artist's trademark brilliant colors.

Though the show went up in October, the artwork, which was painted in August from a photograph, was added to the exhibition on Wednesday, a day after Obama was elected president. The image also appears in this month's W magazine.

Senior curator Laura Hoptman acknowledged it is unusual to add a painting to an existing show but noted that it was appropriate considering the historic nature of Obama's victory.

It's an "amazing thing for amazing times," she said. "She's beautiful, strong, a woman for our time. She really is our moment now."

Corinna Durland, director of Gavin Brown's enterprise, which represents Peyton, said the painting was not commissioned. The Manhattan gallery had informed the Obama campaign that Peyton planned a portrait but never heard back.

The portrait, an oil on board, has already been sold. Durland declined to disclose the price or the name of the buyer.

The show will run through Jan. 11. It will travel to Minneapolis, London and the Netherlands.


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