A Star-Studded Portrait of a Nation Gala


The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and its Director Kim Sajet welcomed more than 750 stars and luminaries from across the country to the nation’s capital for the 2022 Portrait of a Nation Gala Saturday, Nov. 12. At the red carpet event, seven honorees received the museum’s Portrait of a Nation Award for their wide-ranging transformative contributions to the United States and its people.

Honorees included José Andrés, humanitarian, culinary innovator, author, educator and founder of World Central Kitchen; Clive Davis, Grammy Award-winning music industry executive and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Ava DuVernay, Academy Award nominee and Emmy-, BAFTA- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and founder of ARRAY; Marian Wright Edelman, activist for children’s rights and founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund; Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; Serena Williams, tennis champion, winner of 23 Grand Slam titles and entrepreneur; and Venus Williams, tennis champion, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, entrepreneur and advocate on equal pay, mental health and physical wellness.

“This year’s Portrait of a Nation Gala strengthens our commitment to contemporary portraiture,” Sajet said. “We collaborate with contemporary artists to illuminate the history unfolding around us while also looking back at the changemakers who came before. Portraiture is both the past and present, contemplative and motivating, traditional and avant-garde, and we encourage everyone looking at the portraits of this year’s honorees to reflect on how they might see history and want themselves to be seen.”

A media-lined red carpet adorned the steps of the Greek Revival-style museum as guests proceeded to a private viewing of the “Portrait of a Nation: 2022 Honorees,” curated by Rhea Combs, director of curatorial affairs, in collaboration with Taína Caragol, curator of painting, sculpture and Latinx art and history, and Leslie Ureña, curator of photographs. On view were six newly commissioned portraits and one never-before-seen photograph by contemporary artists Ruven Afanador (Edelman), Hugo Crosthwaite (Fauci), Kenturah Davis (DuVernay), David Hockney (Davis), Kadir Nelson (Andrés), Toyin Ojih Odutola (S. Williams) and Robert Pruitt (V. Williams). Attendees then mingled during a cocktail hour deejayed by Mia Moretti and Margot.

A performance by acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis drew guests from cocktails in the museum’s historic Great Hall to dinner in the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, where they were also treated to a New Orleans-inspired second line parade.

Sajet, Board Chair Joseph P. Ujobai, and other Smithsonian leaders shared remarks. As host of the dinner program, writer, producer and TV host Baratunde Thurston provided witty commentary. Presentations of the Portrait of a Nation Award were made by Laurene Powell Jobs to Andrés, Alicia Keys to Davis, Isabel Wilkerson to DuVernay, Hillary Rodham Clinton to Edelman, David Rubenstein to Fauci, Mellody Hobson to S. Williams, and Sonya Haffey and Isha Price to V. Williams.

In attendance at the black-tie event were the gala’s national chairs Catherine and Michael Podell, Eduardo J. Ardiles and Joseph P. Ujobai, and Lyndon J. Barrois, Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois; Washington, D.C. chairs Kristin and John Cecchi and Susanna and Jack Quinn; founding chairs Wayne and Catherine Reynolds; and Host Committee members Jeffrey P. Bezos and Lauren Sánchez and David M. Rubenstein. Robert and Arlene Kogod and Patty Stonesifer and Michael Kinsley also served as Host Committee members for the event.

“Portrait of a Nation: 2022 Honorees” is on view on the museum’s first floor through Oct. 22, 2023. 

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