The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery today is unveiling its latest acquisition, a portrait of Bill and Melinda Gates painted by Jon Friedman.
There’s no reference to Microsoft in the portrait, which emphasizes their stature as philanthropists. They’re seated in front of a video monitor showing African girls and the motto of their charitable foundation, “All Lives Have Equal Value.”
The gallery’s advisory board chooses subjects “who are making a significant impact on American culture,” a release explained. Its collection includes “poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.”
Friedman had only an hour with the Gateses, according to a New York Times editorial that said the artist took digital photos and them assembled the poses on a computer but captured the Gateses “as if he had worked with them for months. The result is quietly inspiring and suprisingly affecting.”
The view in the background of the painting suggests Friedman met with the couple at the Kirkland offices that Bill Gates set up in 2008 after he retired from Microsoft. Beyond the monitor and the wall of windows are what appears to be Lake Washington, green ridges of Seattle and the Olympics.
The gallery, in Washington, D.C., began displaying the painting today and hosted a presentation by Friedman. It’s an oil and collage on canvas measuring 50 1/8 by 46 1/8 inches and was paid for by the musuem’s Marc Pachter Commissioning Fund.
“I am thrilled to accept this commissioned painting of Bill and Melinda Gates into our collection,” Martin Sullivan, director of the museum, said in its announcement. “Jon Friedman created a compelling portrait that tells the story of their foundation’s work.”
Bill and Melinda Gates provided a statement, saying “It is an honor to have our portrait joining those of so many outstanding Americans in the National Portrait Gallery. Our thanks go to Jon Friedman for creating the portrait in so thoughtful a manner, and for calling out the work of our foundation so evocatively.”