When the National Portrait Gallery reopens in the coming months, there will be a new face greeting visitors in the America’s Presidents gallery: that of Donald J. Trump. The permanent exhibit has a painting of every former commander-in-chief, so the inclusion of a Trump portrait isn’t a surprise.
But that likeness won’t be Trump’s official portrait—the specially commissioned post-presidency paintings such as Kehinde Wiley’s blockbuster portrait of Barack Obama. A spokesperson for the museum says the Portrait Gallery is currently in talks with the Trumps about the early steps of that process; the entire commissioning and painting timeline can take as long as two years, as with the Obama likeness. After Obama’s painting was unveiled in 2018 along with Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, both drew gushing praise from art critics and long lines of selfie-takers.
It’s worth pondering what the atmosphere will be like when the official Trump portrait does debut, whenever that may be. As with the Obama paintings, the museum plans to have an unveiling ceremony for the Trump family and invited guests. (The Obamas attended in person.) When the time comes, will throngs of MAGA art appreciators flock to the Portrait Gallery to take in the Trump visages? If so, the museum says they will be welcome. “We are a non-partisan institution and understand that there are public opinions on both sides of the fence,” National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet said in a statement to Washingtonian. “As with all recent presidential commissions, we are unable to speculate as to how visitors will receive the portraits once completed. That is the beauty of portraiture: How it is received is always different for different people.”
There’s no word yet on who might actually paint the portraits. One artist who seems unlikely to be on the short list: Julian Raven, the pro-Trump painter who sued the National Portrait Gallery after it rejected one of his massive paintings of the president. (The suit was later dismissed.) But Raven seems to have recently broken with the ex-president. After the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, Raven wrote a Facebook post calling on Trump to resign.