Donald Trump’s portrait replaces Barack Obama’s at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Museum director Kim Sajet says there’s no moral test to be in the Portrait Gallery, ‘otherwise, nobody would be there’

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 27 April 2021 19:45
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Donald Trump sits at the Resolute Desk
Donald Trump sits at the Resolute Desk
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Donald Trump is replacing Barack Obama, again.

The 45th president will take the place of the 44th president at the Smithsonian when the National Portrait Gallery reopens six months after closing amid Covid pandemic lockdowns.

The museum announced that its newly acquired photograph of Mr Trump would reopen its signature exhibition, "America’s Presidents" on 14 May.

“There’s always a sense of transition when we install a new presidential portrait,” Dorothy Moss, the gallery’s curator of painting and sculpture, told The Washington Post.

It replaces a portrait of Mr Obama by Kehinde Wiley. That piece is scheduled to go on a year-long tour with a painting of Michelle Obama by artist Amy Sherald. Mr Obama will still be featured in the gallery in the form of Shepard Fairey’s iconic “Hope”.

Taken by photographer Pari Dukovic while on assignment for Time magazine on 17 June 2019, it shows Mr Trump at the Resolute Desk a day before officially announcing his reelection campaign.

The exhibit’s curator of photographs, Leslie Ureña, told the Post that she liked the historic merit and artistic composition captured by Mr Dukovic, who has also photographed Mr Obama for the cover of the memoir A Promised Land.

“It is an angle we don’t often see. You get a little bit of the other side and what’s behind the desk,” she said. “We want to not only depict the individual, but also bring as much history, as much context as possible.”

While the accompanying blurb praises Mr Trump’s achievements of record low unemployment, restrictions on immigration and three Supreme Court justices, it also highlights two acquittals on two impeachments, handling of the Covid pandemic, and refusal to concede losing the presidency to Joe Biden – leading to the storming of the Capitol.

The Trump photo is a temporary exhibit while the museum awaits an official commission of new photographs of the former president and first lady, Melania Trump.

Anticipating public objection to the commission, the museum’s director Kim Sajet told The Smithsonian Magazine they’re “getting a lot of people saying, ‘Well, let’s skip over a president’”.

“There’s no moral test to be in the Portrait Gallery. Otherwise, nobody would be there,” she said.

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