When the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery reopens on May 14 after being closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will do so with a new work—a photograph of former President Donald J. Trump. Installed in the museum’s signature exhibition, “America’s Presidents,” the portrait will hang in a space reserved for the nation’s most recent former president and will be a part of the permanent collections.
The 2019 image of Trump is one of many captured by the award-winning photographer Pari Dukovic, while on assignment for Time magazine. Taken on June 17, after Trump officially announced his plans to run for reelection, the image depicts him perched at the edge of a maroon chair with one hand resting on the historic Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
In the background, five flags can be seen, each representing the branches of the Armed Forces (from left: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard). A portion of Asher B. Durand’s 1835 portrait of Andrew Jackson can be seen joined by the c. 1785 portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis, which is on loan to the White House from the Portrait Gallery.
“America’s Presidents” is home to the nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House, telling the story of American leadership and the challenges of office, highlighting historical eras from “Building the Presidency” to the “Contemporary Presidency.” Holding pride of place in the exhibition is the iconic Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington by the American artist Gilbert Stuart. Other prominent works include Elaine de Kooning’s portrait of John F. Kennedy, Norman Rockwell’s painting of Richard Nixon and Chuck Close’ quilt-like portrayal of Bill Clinton, an abstract painting that uses a grid system of visual images.
The National Portrait Gallery’s addition of the recently acquired photograph will carry on the tradition of updating the permanent exhibition as each new leader is elected to the highest office in the land. The museum recently announced that the official portrait of the 44th President Barack Obama by artist Kehinde Wiley, along with Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama will depart for a five-city tour from June 2021 to May 2022. The collage poster from Obama’s historic first 2008 campaign, entitled Hope by the Los Angeles graphic designer Shepard Fairey will go on view in the exhibition.
President Trump, who lost the election last year to Joe Biden, was born and raised in Queens, New York. He attended Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania, and later took over his father’s real estate business, building several hotels, skyscrapers and golf courses. Trump turned to entertainment and hosted the reality television series, “The Apprentice,” for 14 seasons. He also purchased and operated the Miss Universe beauty pageant brand for almost 20 years. Trump’s four-year presidency proved tumultuous; the U.S. Congress twice impeached the 45th president—in 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress; and most recently in January, for incitement of insurrection following the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
The New-York based Dukovic has worked across the publishing spectrum from photojournalism to fashion and for such publications as GQ, Vanity Fair, WSJ Magazine, among others. His portrait photography includes celebrities Taylor Swift, Lizzo and The Weeknd. Dukovic has won awards for his work since 2012, most recently Shortlist: Online Commercial of The Year in 2019.
"America's Presidents" is a permanent exhibition, located on the second floor of the National Portrait Gallery at 8th and G Streets, NW in Washington, D.C. The museum reopens on May 14 and visitors must acquire in advance free, timed-entry tickets.