Trump's Portrait Is Still in Its Early Stages After Smithsonian Said It Was 'Pursuing' Artists

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Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty A photograph of former President Donald J. Trump by Pari Dukovic

Former President Donald Trump will be getting a portrait in the Smithsonian. At some point.

In April, the Smithsonian Institute said it was "pursuing commissioned portraits of former President Trump and Mrs. Trump," but did not have any further details to share at the time.

Now June, six months since the Trumps left the White House, and the museum says it still has no further details to share about the painting which will ultimately hang in the National Portrait Gallery America's Presidents exhibition.

The presidential portrait process is a lengthy one and, for some, it begins while still in office.

Barack Obama chose the artist to paint his museum portrait, Kehinde Wiley, during his presidency. Wiley's work took more than two years from his first conversation about the commission to the February 2018 unveiling.

As Wiley explained in a 2018 interview with The New Yorker, his selection came after a series of meetings at the White House.

"Well, first off, you don't really just get the gig. You have to show up and essentially audition for it," Wiley told the magazine. "There was a series of meetings back in the Oval Office when Obama was the president. And I remember being as nervous as I've ever been."

Wiley continued: "I think I'm pretty good at representing what my work stands for. But when you're sitting down with the head of state and discussing how he fits within a history of representation, how he specifically can interface with your aesthetic - that's a pretty high bar to cross."

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Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty From left: Donald Trump and Melania at the Trump Invitational Grand Prix at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 4, 2015

Not only does the artist selection take time, the portraits themselves can require months or even years to complete.

As artist John Howard Sanden explained to CBS This Morning in 2020, it took 13 months (and eight attempts) before his own portrait of former President George W. Bush was to his liking.

As is tradition, the National Portrait Gallery updates its permanent exhibition of presidents as each new leader enters office.

While Trump's museum portrait is in the works, a photograph of him hangs in a space reserved for the most recent former U.S. president at the National Gallery.

The photo, taken in 2019 by Pari Dukovic for TIME, shows a seated Trump behind the Oval Office's Resolute Desk. It replaces Wiley's portrait of Obama, which is now part of a traveling exhibit.

Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock From left: Donald and Melania Trump upon leaving the White House a final time in January 2021

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According to The Washington Post, the photographic portrait is among five depictions of President Trump in the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection and will remain on view while the museum portraits of both him and former First Lady Melania Trump are completed.

Those works are separate from the official portraits which hang in the White House.

Tradition had dictated that White House portraits are unveiled by their successor (Bush hosted the unveiling of the portraits of Bill and Hillary Clinton, for instance), though the Obama portraits have not been unveiled.