National Portrait Gallery adds Pres. Obama portrait to America's Presidents exhibit

National Portrait Gallery (ABC7)

For the past month, National Portrait Gallery visitors have been disappointed to find the very popular America's Presidents exhibit closed for renovations. But starting Friday, the presidential portraits are back on public display in a temporary space upstairs.

The exhibit features a new addition: the 2013 Chuck Close portrait of former President Barack Obama. In two images, the 44th president is shown both smiling and more serious.

“I think it's a pretty interesting way of portraying him,” said visitor Jim Cech.

Curators noted, nearly fifty years after the gallery opened in 1968, this presidential collection now includes a man of color for the first time. Visitors said it was hard not to notice.

“It's really quite a journey to start from the beginning and come through and then end with [Obama],” said visitor Jean Vanarnan.

To be clear, this is not President Obama's official portrait which has not yet been commissioned. Until then, Close’s portrait will serve as a placeholder in the gallery.

The temporary exhibit also showcases the installation “Hindsight Is Always 20/20” by contemporary artist Luke DuBois. It is a collection of word clouds from State of the Union addresses for 41 presidents, from George Washington through George W. Bush.

“Two presidents didn't deliver State of the Union addresses which is why there are 41,” said National Portrait Gallery chief curator Brandon Fortune.

The DuBois installation is a temporary feature, but in September the presidential portraits will return to their permanent home downstairs. In the meantime, renovations there will continue, with curators promising a reimagined, interactive exhibit.

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