The insipidly iconic Mona Lisa sadly will not be embarking on any more world tours to entertain and inspire the teeming desperate masses of our dying planet. For despite the pleas of French officials anxious to prove their diversity cred, her handlers at the Louvre nixed the idea for good and all in 2018. La Giaconda, as she is also known, has become so fragile that every time the art medics remove her from her bulletproof glass-encased frame for her annual airing, a new crack extending from the tips of her fingers to the top of her forehead grows just a wee bit wider. She'll never leave home again. There's even been talk of canceling her altogether, given that not only is she falling apart, she is vastly overrated as a work of art. She is above all a marketing product of unfettered capitalism.
No such danger for the more nouveau official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, which the art-marketing world declared to be instant classical icons the very minute they were unveiled at The Smithsonian for good and all in 2018 The Obamas themselves may have developed some cracks in their own carefully curated images as a result of that ill-advised pandemic birthday bash they staged earlier this month at their faux chateau on Martha's Vineyard. But you wouldn't know it from the sold-out opening of the Brooklyn Art Museum leg of their national iconography tour this past weekend.
Advance reservations, proof of vaccination and photo I.D.s are all required to stand in awe before the Obama simulacra for no longer than 15 minutes. Tickets are already going fast, according to the Brooklyn Brownstoner, a real estate guide whose core mission is alerting the upwardly mobile to the latest million-dollar bungalow in Crown Heights.
Not for nothing is one of the major financial sponsors of the show a New York real estate developer and gentrifier named Donald A. Capoccia. Other backers include Hollywood director Stephen Spielberg, racehorse breeder Robert Meyerhoff, and insurance tycoon Tommie Pegues.
The tour's biggest corporate sponsor is the notorious Bank of America, which reached one particular sweetheart settlement (out of several) with Obama's Justice Department for mortgage and securities fraud that actually gifted it with $2 in government credits for every dollar that it returned to its foreclosed victims. Bankrolling the Portraits Tour is the least that BOA can do for its loyal protector.
In case you can't score the same sort of timed tickets to gawk at and take selfies with the Obama simulacra that the Louvre requires of tourists to gaze upon the Mona Lisa, please don't despair. You can have all the time you need to eyeball facsimiles of the facsimiles of the Obamas in a very special souvenir coffee table book published just for the occasion.
The Smithsonian gift shop ever so subtly pitches the merch to the discerning art lover:
After witnessing a woman drop to her knees in prayer before the portrait of Barack Obama, one guard said, “No other painting gets the same kind of reactions. Ever.” The Obama Portraits is the first book about the making, meaning, and significance of these remarkable artworks.
Richly illustrated with images of the portraits, exclusive pictures of the Obamas with the artists during their sittings, and photos of the historic unveiling ceremony by former White House photographer Pete Souza, this book offers insight into what these paintings can tell us about the history of portraiture and American culture. The volume also features a transcript of the unveiling ceremony, which includes moving remarks by the Obamas and the artists. A reversible dust jacket allows readers to choose which portrait to display on the front cover.
If you didn't fall for that pitch, then you might be suspected of occult Donald Trump fandom. Worse, if you don't think that Obama starting more wars, dropping more bombs, deporting more migrants and evicting more people from their homes than any other modern president were positive achievements by the Adult In the Room, then you might as well just stoop to sneakily viewing them right here, for free, in all their glorious lo-def pulchritude:
Or, if you tastelessly insist upon realism in your art:
Meanwhile, if you're among the millions of renters in Brooklyn and all over America who are in imminent danger of losing your home because the Supreme Court cruelly overturned the national eviction moratorium, don't fret. Because arch-conservative Trump appointee Amy Coney Barrett showed that she really does have a heart after all, in favoring Obama and unilaterally denying a bid by environmentalists and neighborhood preservationists to block construction of his massive shrine. (dare to read the fact-based criticism of this vanity project at Jackson Park Watch.)
The project serves as a catalyst for long-overdue investment in and around historic Jackson Park — creating a new destination to move visitors from hope to action, breathing new life into the park, and delivering amenities and economic benefits to the community the Obamas called home."
Notice the past tense. Besides their mansion in Washington, D.C. and their ocean-front chateau on Martha's Vineyard, the Obamas are also constructing a winter vacation compound in Hawaii. They will breathe new life into the South Pacific air even as they help exterminate life in the actual Pacific Ocean. As ProPublica reported last year, Obama friend and Foundation president Martin Nesbitt finagled an expansion of the sea wall to ensure that they get the privacy they crave. This construction will endanger such species as monkfish and sea turtles, and is otherwise banned in Hawaii. Nesbitt, incidentally, is also one of the backers of the current Obama Icon Tour, whose ostensible purpose is to foster good will and art appreciation among Peoples.
Climate change? When you have a manufactured icon sharing the planet with you, what more could you possibly want? For as long as their shell games are plastered with enough glitter to disguise the gruesomeness, as long as there's oligarchic Superglue both to sniff and to mend the widening cracks in their facades, as long as glib performance art is more valued than human decency, there will always be Obamas.