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Bloomberg’s official mayoral portrait (via NYC Mayor’s Office on Twitter)

Today, after 12 years, Michael Bloomberg will leave his post as the mayor of New York City. It’s been a _______ (insert your own adjective, e.g. fun, healthy, safe, corporate, expensive) three terms, filled with _______ and _______ (insert nouns, e.g. bike lanes, condos, stop-and-frisk, large-soda bans). Despite any lingering hard feelings, we wish him well — and he no doubt does the same for us, as he’s left us two gifts: a ban on e-cigs and an official portrait.

The portrait, done by artist Jon R. Friedman, suits (pun intended) Bloomberg very well, as many in the blogosphere have pointed out. His tie is purple — the color of his political affiliation, Independent. He reigns over one of the rooms in City Hall, which strangely looks like a Wall Street trading floor or newsroom — complete with Bloomberg computer terminals. His positioning against a railing that we think represents some kind of balcony (not sure about the perspective here) makes him a towering figure, quite literally larger-than-life. Everything, including Bloomberg himself, is pristine and gleaming (it’s all very white). Here, the portrait seems to say, is a benevolent businessman ruler.

Gregory Heisler’s portrait of Ed Koch (via 6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com)

Still, for all its predictability, Bloomberg’s portrait does break with recent political tradition. First, it’s being unveiled much sooner than previous mayoral portraits; typical lag time seems to be at least a year, if not several. Second, rather than being shown against a blank backdrop or in his office, Mayor Bloomberg is in situ (sort of). The background of the painting matters as much as the central figure; he is his work. The portrait also seems a step up from our previous mayor’s official likeness: Everett Raymond Kinstler’s take on Rudy Giuliani doesn’t much resemble the man, and Giuliani’s accoutrements suggest only an allegiance to our city’s biggest sports franchise. On the other hand, Bloomberg can’t beat Ed Koch for innovation: Koch used a photograph as his official portrait, the first of its non-painted kind for the city. He also took the opportunity to show his thoughtful side; Bloomberg has instead gone for self-assured, which may, at the end of the day, be the most defining quality of his reign.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

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