During the long presidential campaign, President Barack Obama ran on a platform of change. And in his extremely busy first 100 plus days, change has indeed come, fast and furious, on issues domestic and foreign.
That same clarion call for change is now spreading to the White House walls.
According to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal, President and Mrs. Obama are updating the art on the walls of the White House to better reflect the diversity of both the nation's population and the world of art. The President and First Lady have reached out to galleries and private collectors, asking for loans of modern art and art by women, African Americans, Asians and Hispanics. In doing so, the Obamas hope to supplement the current White House collection, which includes few pieces from the late 20th century or 21st century. And by including art from women and minorities, the Obamas hope to spice up the current White House collection with a long-needed splash of diversity: in the 450 piece collection, 5 are by African American men, 2 of which are the official portraits done of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Some of the loaned art pieces gracing the walls of the White House have come out of storage from the magnificent collection of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum.
The Hirshhorn's mission is to "share the transforming power of modern and contemporary art" and "enhance public understanding and appreciation of contemporary art." Artist Ed Ruscha, who the National Gallery named "one of the most compelling artists of the last forty years" called the Hirshhorn: "a true flagship institution for the nation." One of Ruscha's pieces is now on loan to the White House. Other contemporary art pieces currently on loan to the White House include works by Louise Nevelson, Jasper Johns and Alma Thomas.
This move by the Obamas is welcomed by art supporters. Not long after the inauguration, Jonathan Melber wrote on Huffington Post, "Whenever (President Obama) does get around to hanging art in his new house, he should go contemporary...surely the mandate of change in the White House applies to art as well?" Many art institutions were hoping the Obamas would bring their own taste in art (they favor contemporary) with them to the White House. As reported in February in The Daily Beast the director of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art Madeleine Grynsztejn said, "I think it would be symbolic and materially important to have works of art from living American artists on view in the White House." And as reported in the Wall Street Journal, displaying contemporary artists could provide a boost for the art world by encouraging the purchase of works by contemporary artists, a possible economic stimulus that wouldn't need to pass Congress or burden the taxpayer.
President Obama has often said he wants to "remind people that the White House is the people's house." It appears he intends to let the walls reflect that theme by filling them with art more inclusive and reflective of the nation it represents.