Princeton University Press acquires rights to The Obama Portraits

Princeton University Press acquires rights to The Obama Portraits

By News Editor

Above photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Paul Morigi, 2018

Princeton University Press is thrilled to announce plans to publish The Obama Portraits, in association with the National Portrait Gallery, Washington. Michelle Komie, Publisher of Art and Architecture at PUP, acquired world rights to the book, which is slated for publication in February of 2020, two years after the historic unveiling of the paintings President Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley and First Lady Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald.

Obama Portraits 1
Photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery
Obama Portraits 2
Photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

The Obama Portraits will be the first examination of the inception, evolution, and impact of these remarkable paintings. The book will include a selection of powerful images, including behind-the-scenes photography by Pete Souza, the official photographer for the Obamas; and a transcript of remarks given by the Obamas and others at the historic unveiling. Essays by Kim Sajet, Director of the National Portrait Gallery; Portrait Gallery curators Taína Caragol and Dorothy Moss; and art historian Richard Powell will explore themes of power, empathy, democracy, pilgrimage, and race.

According to Sajet, “While the lead-up to the unveiling of the Obama portraits attracted unprecedented media attention, the public’s interest in them has far surpassed our expectations. Our long lines and record attendance numbers certainly hint at the impact they’ve had on audiences, but what we’ve come to call the Obama effect has been deeply profound. The National Portrait Gallery is delighted to be partnering with Princeton University Press on The Obama Portraits and looks forward to expanding the museum’s audience with this important book.”

Komie remarked, “These paintings have resonated like few other artworks in history. We are enormously grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the National Portrait Gallery on a book that is so vibrant, so vital, and which carries such tremendous potential to engage readers within the arts and well beyond.”

The National Portrait Gallery is home to official portraits of every US president and, since the late twentieth century, of First Ladies as well. The museum has worked with Princeton University Press on several recent projects, including catalogues for the exhibitions Black Out and Votes for Women.

About the Authors

Taína Caragol is Curator of Painting and Sculpture and Curator of Latino Art and History at the National Portrait Gallery. She co-organized UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar and The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now.

Dorothy Moss is Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and Coordinating Curator for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. Her most recent publication, The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers, accompanied a major exhibition at the museum.

Richard J. Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, where he teaches courses in American art and the arts of the African Diaspora. He is the author of Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black PortraitureBlack Art: A Cultural History, and countless other publications.

Kim Sajet is the first woman to serve as the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Born in Nigeria, raised in Australia, and a citizen of the Netherlands, she brings a global perspective to the position. Prior to her appointment at the Portrait Gallery in 2013, Sajet (pronounced Say-et) was President and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 

About Princeton University Press

Founded in 1905, Princeton University Press is a leading independent publisher of trade and scholarly books. With close ties to Princeton University and with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and China, PUP strives to foster dialogues that engage the world.

About the National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts, and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists, whose lives tell the American story.