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Toyin Odutola Captures Serena Williams in a New Light at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

November 10, 2022–October 22, 2023 | Washington, DC


Artist Toyin Odutola has captured tennis star Serena Williams in her own unique way, as part of the Smithsonian’s Portrait of a Nation Award. Her portrait of Serena Williams shows the tennis champion in a cheerful and relaxed pose, leaning on one arm, with the only hint of her athletic physique being her muscular arm. Odutola's portrait of Serena Williams depicts the tennis champion in an entirely new light. Rather than showcasing her athletic prowess, the work presents Serena Williams as relaxed and cheerful. The portrait is an attestation to Odutola's ability to capture her subjects in unique and captivating ways. It was commissioned as part of the Smithsonian’s biennial prize that recognises extraordinary individuals who have made transformative contributions to the U.S.


Toyin Ojih Odutola, "Serena" (2022) (all images courtesy National Portrait Gallery)


The opening event of the “Portrait of a Nation” exhibition, which features the portraits of Serena and Venus Williams and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, came alongside images of other transformative individuals, including President Biden's chief medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, chef José Andrés, and music executive Clive Davis. The works of the three famous Black women, Serena and Venus Williams and Ava DuVernay which were painted by rising Black artists, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Robert Pruitt, and Kenturah Davis, respectively, will enter the museum's permanent collection, becoming a part of American history.


Toyin Odutola is a renowned visual artist known for her dynamic multimedia portrait drawings. Her works have been exhibited at several art institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Drawing Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She has participated in several fairs including, the 16th Lyon Biennale and the 12th Manifesta Biennial; and she was inducted as a National Academician of Design in 2019.


The National Portrait Gallery will honour 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.


Source: Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

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Toyin Odutola Captures Serena Williams in a New Light at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

November 9, 2022

Fredrick Favour

2 min read