Magazine article The New Yorker

Barack

Magazine article The New Yorker

Barack

Article excerpt

Chuck Close, the most celebrated portrait artist of our era, never accepts commissions. He makes portraits of his friends--Cindy Sherman, Philip Glass, and other artists and musicians--and of public figures whom he admires, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the Dalai Lama, and, most recently, Barack Obama. His larger-than-life-size portrait--based on a Polaroid photograph of the President and executed on a woven tapestry--was on view at the Mint Museum, in Charlotte, North Carolina, throughout the Democratic National Convention. In the artist's New York studio, meanwhile, a tapestry with a different image of Obama, smiling broadly, hung on a long wall, together with many prints of a third Obama image. "I'm making ten tapestries," Close explained, "priced at a hundred thousand dollars apiece, ten large prints at fifty thousand, forty medium-sized ones at twenty-five thousand, and two hundred small ones at five thousand." They will go public in an invitation-only sale in New York in early October (the small prints are also being offered online), and the proceeds, which could reach three million dollars, will go to the Obama Victory Fund.

Zipping around the studio in the motorized wheelchair he has used since 1988, when a spinal-artery collapse left him partially paralyzed from the neck down, Close, who is now seventy-two, was in great spirits. Wearing a loose-fitting jacket and pants, made from colorful African block prints, he discussed his somewhat difficult courtship of the Obama Administration. "I'd photographed Hillary Clinton for her Senate run, and the portrait I did from that was sold for a lot of money," he said. "We also organized an art auction for Gore, and I made a tapestry of him as well. I offered to do this for Obama, during his first election campaign, but there was no response. Soon afterward, though, I joined Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. We worked on a project to inject arts into the lowest-performing public schools in the country, to see if that can help to turn around the dropout rate, and every time I went to Washington for a meeting I'd talk about the great results we'd had with the art auction for Gore, and say I'd love to do something similar for Obama. Nobody picked up on it until just recently, when they found they weren't raising enough money, and somebody said, 'Oh, yeah, wasn't there something about an art auction? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.