Fauci, Serena and Venus Williams honored at National Portrait Gallery
The worlds of sports, entertainment, medicine, food and philanthropy all artfully collided in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, as Serena and Venus Williams, Anthony Fauci, José Andrés and Ava DuVernay were among those honored with works of art that they inspired at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
“I was awestruck by the talent of that artist,” Fauci told ITK at the biennial Portrait of a Nation gala, reacting to a five-minute stop-motion animation of him, consisting of 19 drawings on paper, by artist Hugo Crosthwaite.
“I’m very uncomfortable with this red carpet stuff. I don’t like attention on me and about me,” said Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, who announced earlier this year that he’s stepping down from his government role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases next month. “And what [Crosthwaite] did is he didn’t make it about me — he made it about the era. So when you look at it carefully, I’m the one that’s sort of walking people through the era.”
Famed chef and World Central Kitchen founder Andrés quipped he had one thought when he first looked upon the massive oil on linen painting of him, “José Andrés and the Olla de Barro that Feeds the World,” by artist Kadir Nelson.
“What the heck am I doing here?” Andrés exclaimed.
“The American dream is real,” the Spanish-born restaurateur said.
Andrés expressed astonishment that after immigrating to the United States more than 30 years ago, he could now see his portrait “in a museum which is in the neighborhood where I grew up, where I had my first apartment, where I opened my first restaurant.”
Seeing her portrait up on a museum wall, “Selma” director DuVernay said, is “not a normal thing for me.”
“I’m just a regular gal from Los Angeles,” DuVernay said after taking in the work by California-based artist Kenturah Davis, which features an image of her subject using a stamping technique.
The politically outspoken producer said she was closely eyeing the results of the midterm elections earlier in the week, with returns yet to show whether Republicans would gain control of either the House or Senate.
“It’s the nail biter to the point that I could probably bite my fingers off,” DuVernay said. But DuVernay’s hands were likely saved from further injury — just hours after she told ITK about her election nerves, results from the Nevada Senate race came in, projecting that Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro (D) would defeat Republican Adam Laxalt and Democrats would maintain their Senate majority.
“If there’s anything that demonstrates that every vote counts, it’s how this has come down to the wire,” DuVernay said before Nevada was called.
Also among this year’s honorees were famed music producer Clive Davis and Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman.
The Portrait of a Nation event, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs Rhea Combs said, recognizes figures “from across disciplines, across spectrums, across sectors.”
“This year, we were able to look at people who have really made extraordinary, exemplary contributions to the ways in which we understand ourselves and kind of define what greatness is,” Combs said.
The works of art depicting the seven honorees will be on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery for a year.
Among the VIPs eyed at the soiree: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) taking advantage of his more than six-foot tall frame to extend his arms and snap selfies with fans, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) admiring the portrait of Davis, “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell and CNN’s Dana Bash and Don Lemon posing for a snapshot together, Laurene Powell Jobs, Hillary Clinton, Alicia Keys and David Rubenstein.