The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, revealed the commissions of its seven 2022 “Portrait of a Nation” recipients, a group of individuals who have made important contributions to the lives of Americans.

Beginning this November and continuing for approximately one year, portraits of tennis champions Serena Williams and Venus Williams, music industry executive Clive Davis, civil and children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, chef and philanthropist José Andrés, and Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci will be displayed on the museum’s first floor.

Among the new works is David Hockney’s portrait of record producer Clive Davis, only the second commission Hockney has painted over the course of his decades-long career, and Toyin Ojih Odutola‘s portrait of tennis champion Serena Williams, who announced her retirement this summer but hinted last week at her return.

David Hockney, “Clive Davis, May 23rd” (2022) (© 2022 David Hockney)

Artist Robert Pruitt created a portrayal of Serena’s sister and fellow tennis player Venus Williams. In the double-image, the two versions of Williams face each other but do not lock eyes. In one depiction, Williams wears an armored chest plate and a short raffia skirt, and in the other, beaded strands wrap around the tennis star’s face and drape over her sparkling jumpsuit.

To create her portrait of filmmaker Ava DuVernay, artist Kenturah Davis first captured a long-exposure photograph of the sitter turning her head, a technique the artist said meshed with DuVernay’s role in making motion pictures. Davis then created a drawing of DuVernay’s photograph and used stamps to comprise the filmmaker’s body.

Robert Pruitt, “Venus Williams, Double Portrait” (2022) (© 2022 Robert Pruitt)
Kenturah Davis, “AVA” (2022)

The museum’s new works also include a portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President who spearheaded the American response to COVID-19. Hugo Crosthwaite diverged from the other commissioned artists’ more traditional interpretations of portraiture and created a stop-motion animation. The clip includes depictions of Fauci, doctors, and patients fighting against the pandemic. Crosthwaite’s work also includes 19 drawings on paper, and seven will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery’s upcoming exhibition.

Hugo Crosthwaite, “A Portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci” (2022), stop-motion drawing animation excerpt

The last two portraits portray chef José Andrés, who founded World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that delivers meals to victims of natural disaster, and civil rights and children’s activist Marian Wright Edelman.

In his depiction of Andrés, Kadir Nelson paints the chef standing in front of a crowd of people, each subject’s arms filled with food. In his 2013 black-and-white photograph of Edelman (the only work made before 2022), photographer Ruven Afanador has created a triple portrait: The activist wears a necklace with the faces of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.

Kadir Nelson, “José Andrés and the Olla de Barro that Feeds the World” (2022) (© 2022 Kadir Nelson)
Ruven Afanador, “Marian Wright Edelman” (2013) © 2013 Ruven Afanador

The National Portrait Gallery will honor its seven 2022 “Portraits of a Nation” recipients at a November 12 gala, and their portraits will be on view from November 10 through October 22, 2023 and enter the museum’s collection.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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