'American Art' Now Hangs at the White House

William H. Johnson’s Booker T. Washington Legend shows the historical figure, who was born into slavery, in his role as a teacher. The work is on loan from the American Art MuseumFirst Lady Michelle Obama has chosen 47 works of art for the offices and private quarters of the White House. Tying the decisions to American politics, the London Times writes: Unveiled this week, they form a strikingly modern and political collection that sends one clear message to the Obamas’ visitors: whether or not change is coming to America, it has come to the executive mansion. 

A picture by George Catlin, who rode West with the pioneers in the 19th century , Catlin and Indian Attacking BuffaloFolk art, conceptual art, Native American art and African American art have replaced still lifes and landscapes.

Glen Ligon’s “Black Like Me #2”

There is also a dramatic rebuke to white racism in Black Like Me #2, by Glenn Ligon — a tall rectangular canvas covered in the words “All traces of the Griffin I had been were wiped from existence”. The sentence comes from a book by a white journalist, John Howard Griffin, who passed himself off as a black man and kept a diary as he travelled through the segregated South in 1959.

There are few works by women. No Georgia O’Keefe? Maya Lin? None by gays or Latinos.

But change has come to the art collection of the Obama White House, and it’s generally well received as having “wall power”.

The First Lady’s one Mark Rothko — representing one of the great conceptual artists of the 20th century — looks totally at home in its new setting.

Art curators consider Mrs. Obama ‘adventurous’ in her choices, moreso than Jacqueline Kennedy who preferred Cezannes. Anne