Serena and Venus Williams and Ava DuVernay Tap Artists to Paint Their Portraits for the Smithsonian—See the Results Here


Tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and the filmmaker Ava DuVernay are among the famous faces going on show on November 10 in the “Portrait of a Nation” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

The portraits of the three famous Black women are by up-and-coming Black artists, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Robert Pruitt and Kenturah Davis, respectively. 

Odutola’s portrait of Serena Williams shows the tennis champion cheerful and relaxed, as though mid-conversation. Her head leaning on one muscular arm is the only hint at her renown athletic physique. 

The works were commissioned as part of the Smithsonian’s Portrait of a Nation Award—a biennial prize established in 2015 that recognizes extraordinary individuals who have made transformative contributions to the U.S. 

They will enter the museum’s permanent collection alongside images of President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony S. Fauci, chef José Andrés, and music executive Clive Davis. Also entering the collection  is a 2013 photograph of the children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, taken by Ruven Afanador. 

Hugo Crosthwaite’s multifaceted depiction of Fauci consists of both a series of drawings and a stop motion animation.

The seven honorees worked with curators at the National Portrait Gallery to decide which artists would represent them. 

“Since 2001, the museum has collected portraits of living sitters and continues to expand its work with contemporary artists,” said the gallery’s director of curatorial affairs, Rhea L. Combs. 

Here is a sneak peek of the images in the exhibition.

Robert Pruitt, Venus Williams, Double Portrait (2022). Photo courtesy of the
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;
© 2022 Robert Pruitt.

A drawing from the series by Hugo Crosthwaite, A Portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci (2022). Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

David Hockney, Clive Davis, May 23rd (2022). Courtesy of the artist; © 2022 David Hockney.

Kenturah Davis, AVA (2022). Photo courtesy or National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Kadir Nelson, (2022). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; © 2022 Kadir Nelson.

“Portrait of a Nation”, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, November 10, 2022–October 22, 2023. 


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