Who Should Paint Donald Trump’s Portrait? We Asked 11 Art-World Figures Who They Think Is Up to the Task
Adrian Piper, Hank Willis Thomas, Judith Bernstein, and others weigh in with their votes for Trump's future portraitist.
Last week, the National Portrait Gallery announced that the recently unveiled portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama had caused attendance at the National Portrait Gallery to skyrocket by more than 300 percent. The artists behind the works, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, were the first black painters to receive the commission. They also chose to break with the traditional style of presidential portraiture in favor of more conceptual views of their subjects.
Donald Trump’s countenance has also inspired many artistic interpretations—including quite a few that have been less than flattering. Who would best capture him for his own forthcoming portrait? artnet News reached out to 11 opinionated art world denizens for suggestions. Here are their picks for President Trump’s future portraitist.
Michael Rakowitz, artist
Maurizio Cattelan could do it. He’s the Sascha Baron Cohen of the art world. In a way, with America, he already did it. Another idea would be to get a psychic to make contact with Thomas Kinkade. He could then guide the psychic in painting the portrait.
Wendi Norris, founder of Gallery Wendi Norris
I’m not sure who would take on that project, really. The better presidential portrait would be that of Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump.
Adrian Piper, artist
Andrea Glimcher, founder of Hyphen art advisory
Beginning in 1796 with Gilbert Stuart’s painting of George Washington, every US president has been the subject of an official portrait. As this practice will continue with Donald Trump, I think the only person fit to render his likeness is Trump himself. His should absolutely be a self-portrait. Self-portraiture can be many things: vanity, self-scrutiny, experimentation—regardless, it often reveals so much more than originally intended. Even if Trump evades genuine self-examination, whatever image of himself he concocts and the medium he chooses will be informative. Eventually he should look in the mirror. He may never do it, but for posterity we should ask him to and record what he sees. It will speak volumes.
Natalie Frank, artist
Cecilia Gimenez, author of the worst restoration in history. She messed up Christ. I’d like to see her screw Trump.
William Powhida, artist
As an admirer of Norwegians, Trump should choose Odd Nerdrum, a self-proclaimed contrarian painter of kitsch, who is not only capable of rendering Trump’s flesh, but having experienced his own tax challenges, he may also be able to capture Trump’s interiority.
Judith Bernstein, artist
Me—who else could better capture the essence of 45?! In my latest “Money Shot” series I have a portrait, President (2017), showing Trump for what he is: a fool, a monster, a jester, a sexist, a racist. Donald Trump is a con artist, using the White House as his own personal cash machine.
Hank Willis Thomas, artist
Ryan Alexiev does portraits in cereal. We did one of Obama in 2009. Speaks to the sugary commodity we try to brand and elect every season.
David Kratz, president of the New York Academy of Art
John Alexander, because he paints nature at its best and man at his worst.
Jasmine Wahi, founder of Project for Empty Space
Terry Richardson because they deserve each other. This is harder than I thought because I can’t think of any painting I would want to see less, or any person I’d want to subject to painting him. But someone who might have the stomach for it is either Francis Bacon (and not just because he’s dead) or Paul McCarthy or Marilyn Minter—because who wouldn’t want to see those interpretations?
Harry Philbrick, founding director of Philadelphia Contemporary
Since the only qualified, living artist—George W. Bush—would no doubt refuse the commission, I’m afraid we have to conjure up artists from the past worthy of the task. We’ll skip past Eisenhower and Churchill to get to the politician-artist whose ability to mesmerize the populace, along with his lack of morals, perhaps best matches Trump—Adolf Hitler.
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