Restoring a Tradition Trump Skipped, Joe Biden Will Welcome Barack Obama to the White House to Unveil His Old Boss’s Portrait

The tradition goes back 40 years.

Former President Barack Obama and current President Joe Biden will be reunited for a White House tradition. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Former President Barack Obama and current President Joe Biden will be reunited for a White House tradition. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden is welcoming his former boss, Barack Obama, back to the White House for the unveiling of the former president’s official portrait this fall, according to a report from NBC News.

The unveiling will be a makeup occasion after former President Trump declined to invite Obama for the event, which typically takes place in the East Room of the White House with hundreds of guests in attendance.

For 40 years before Trump discontinued it, the portrait dedication was a bipartisan gesture of goodwill by a new president towards his predecessor. (Trump also skipped Biden’s inauguration, opting to leave Washington early for his Florida estate at Mar-a-Lago.)

The paintings are commissioned by the privately funded White House Historical Association, and are awarded to an artist of the former president’s choosing.

Tourists walk past a portrait of former US Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton during the reopening of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, on May 14, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Creating the portraits can take up to four years, and the works are donated to the White House upon completion.

Customarily, portraits of the two most recent presidents hang on the state floor of the White House near the Grand Foyer, though Trump moved portraits of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to a “less visible” location, according to NBC. Biden has since moved them back.

Donald and Melania Trump are reportedly in discussions with the Historical Association and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), where portraits of other US presidents are on view in the “America’s Presidents” exhibition.

An advisor to Trump told NBC that “our progress is consistent with historical precedent.”

When the NPG reopened after it pandemic-forced closure, a recently acquired photograph of Trump was included in the exhibition. It was taken on June 17, 2019, in the Oval Office, the day before Trump formally announced he would seek reelection.

Meanwhile, portraits of the Obamas by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald are now on an 11-month-long, five-venue tour.


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