'The Obama Effect' Has Doubled The Annual Amount Of Visitors To The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
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The Obama administration ended with the inauguration of Donald Trump, but the former first couple’s impact continues.
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The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and forever first lady Michelle Obama have been drawing huge crowds. They have led to a spike in visitors to the Smithsonian Museum’s National Portrait Gallery, according to The Washington Post. Gallery director Kim Sajet calls it “The Obama Effect.”
An astounding 2.3 million people visited the museum in 2018. Before the portraits’ installment, the average number of yearly visitors was around 1.1 million, according to Hyperallergic.
Millennials and generation Xers comprised 66 percent of the visitors. On March 24, the day of the March for Our Lives protest, 35,968 people visited the museum. Patronage has been so overwhelming that, at times, the Obamas' galleries had to be temporarily shut down to clear the crowd.
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Museum volunteer Mary Francis Koerner says visitors have gone from asking, “Where are the presidents?” to, “Where are the Obamas?”
“They have brought in so many people,” Koerner said. “After 4:30 there’s an uptick of the younger generation, and that’s who they come to see.”
The museum has adapted by selling gift shop items printed with the pictures.
The portraits were painted by Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley and unveiled for public viewing in February 2018. The Obamas selected the artists from a list provided by the museum’s staff.
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