Chuck Close is already quite a decorated painter, but he now has one more line to add to his resume: presidential portraitist. Earlier this week, a tapestry depicting President Obama by the artist was unveiled at the Mint Museum in North Carolina in honor of the Democratic National Convention. The tapestry is one of 10 that will be made available for sale (at $100,000 each) as part of a fundraiser supporting the Obama Victory Fund.
Close, who is a National Medal of Arts winner and a passionate advocate of arts education, flew to Washington, D.C. in July to photograph the president at a hotel near the White House. “I photographed him…for an hour and a half,” Close recently told the Village Voice, “and boy, did I take the opportunity to lobby him.” The artist ended up using two images from the shoot to produce the tapestries — one of Obama smiling, and another of him looking more “presidential” (that is to say, stoic).
A watercolor print made from the same portraits will also be available for purchase to benefit the Obama Victory Fund. A large size in an edition of 10 is $50,000, while a smaller size in a larger edition of 40 costs $25,000. A number of the works have been signed by both Close and the President.
On October 3, select Obama and Close enthusiasts will have the opportunity to purchase works from the series at Lever House in New York, where Ronald Feldman Gallery will hold an invitation-only fundraiser to benefit another PAC, Artists for America. (The fundraiser will center around an auction of work by 125 artists; the Close works will be available separately.) The President’s sitting is also the subject of a “Talk of the Town” feature in this month’s New Yorker, where Close divulges that Obama willingly stayed 50 minutes later than planned (perhaps in order to avoid a picnic with Congress in the White House backyard) and made a wisecrack about needing to wear his American flag pin, or else people might think he was a socialist.
You can see a glimmer of the pin on the lapel above. More portraits by Close — including paintings of famous friends like Philip Glass and Cindy Sherman — will be on view at Pace Gallery’s 534 W 25th Street location from October 19 through December 22.
Now, if Close is doing the portraiture honors for Obama, who might volunteer to make a fundraising portrait of Romney? No takers?
— Julia Halperin