In a recent story in the Independent, artist Glenn Ligon recalls the time he met President Barack Obama at a fundraiser in Harlem and learned a shocking fact about his taste in art. Not only was Obama familiar with Ligon's work, but he revealed that the artist's Black Like Me No. 2 was hanging in his "personal quarters" at the White House. The President also told Ligon that the First Family has two of his other prints as well, but they "had to rotate them out because of light issues and I really miss them."
"It's not just decoration. He looks at it and knows when it's not there. It was touching to realise that visual art is an integral part of his and his family's life. It's not just window dressing, not something you have to talk about because people expect you to," Ligon told the Independent. The publication calls the painting "overtly political," as it repeats a line from John Howard Griffin's book Black Like Me, a white man's account of his experiences "passing" as black in the racially segregated South in 1959.
According to the Washington Post, the Obamas worked with curators back in 2009 to borrow 47 works by a range of artists to fill the White House. Not all of the art is made by African American artists, but the fact that the President chose Ligon's piece for his personal quarters was both shocking and important for the artist to learn directly from the man himself.