September 3–October 30, 2022

Portraits of Leadership

Responses to the Obama Portraits

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Included with General Admission

Portraits from the community featuring leaders of all kinds

What does leadership look like? In response to MFA Boston’s call for submissions, artists of all ages—from Dorchester to Seoul—have sent in the more than 2,600 portraits comprising “Portraits of Leadership: Responses to the Obama Portraits.” Curated by teens from Curatorial Study Hall—a project-based internship program giving high school students museum career experience—the exhibition explores themes of narrative and storytelling, families, memorials, activists, fame, and artistic expression. The works on view—spanning drawing, painting, watercolor, collage, and photography—showcase the distinct voices of individual artists, and together they form a panoramic vision of what a leader can be.

This exhibition accompanies “The Obama Portraits Tour” and is inspired by the portraits of President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. Unlike earlier images of presidents and first ladies, the paintings break barriers, paving the way for new artistic visions. Wiley’s and Sherald’s pictures are at once extraordinary and approachable—making space for people of color and allowing audiences to see themselves in President Obama and the former First Lady.

  • Gallery next to MFA Signature Shop (Gallery 183)
  • Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Center (130.10)

See More Portraits of Leadership Online

portrait of a man in suit and red bow tie sitting in front of backdrop featuring flowers, leaves and branches made of construction paper

In response to our call for art for “Portraits of Leadership,” artists of all backgrounds submitted portraits—more than 2,600 works in total—depicting leaders in their lives. The artists submitted portraits through mail, in person at the Museum, and digitally. What you see are the digital submissions exclusively on view here. Scroll through this aspect of the exhibition, taking your time with each work to discover the countless ways our communities envision leadership.

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See “Portraits of Leadership” for Free

The Museum is offering free admission for all on four occasions throughout the run of the exhibition:

  • Monday, September 5 (Labor Day)
  • Monday, September 19
  • Monday, October 10 (Indigenous Peoples’ Day)
  • Sunday, October 30

No advance tickets. Free general admission and exhibition tickets are available in person on a first-come, first-served basis.


National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian

Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.

Bank of America, National Sponsor

Support for the Obama Portraits national tour has been generously provided by Bank of America.

The exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is generously supported by Suffolk Cares, Carolyn and Peter Lynch and the Lynch Foundation, the Crimson Lion / Lavine Family Foundation, and Patti and Jonathan Kraft. Additional support from the Adams-Budding-Cohen Family, Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, Susan Clark Livingston, and the Hutchins Family Foundation.

WCVB: Boston's Community Leader

Media Partner

With gratitude to Converse, The 7uice Foundation, The Boston Foundation, and the Obama Foundation.