WASHINGTON D.C. — Jeff Bezos was honored Sunday evening in Washington D.C. as a portrait of the Amazon CEO was installed in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
More than 25 years after he founded one of the world’s most valuable companies, Bezos received the “Portrait of a Nation” prize alongside five other high-profile honorees. It’s part of a larger recognition of his contribution to the country’s shared history, development, and culture, the museum said.
Bezos, who received the award from his son Preston, had his portrait painted by Robert McCurdy, known for photorealistic oil paintings and photographs of notable figures in U.S. history.
Bezos was honored together with chemical engineer and Nobel laureate Frances Arnold; American band Earth, Wind & Fire; “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda; former chief executive of PepsiCo and new Amazon board member Indra Nooyi; and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. All received the “Portrait of a Nation Prize” based on their commitments to “service, creativity, individuality, insight, and ingenuity.”
The American Portrait Gala is part of an annual fundraising event established in 2015 with the purpose of strengthening the National Portrait Gallery’s endowment for exhibitions.
“The 2019 American Portrait Gala was a night like no other here at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery,” said Kim Sajet, director of the museum. “We honored an incredible group of people who have excelled in their chosen fields and then made it made a commitment to pass on their knowledge and advice to the next generation.”
Speaking on the hyperrealistic painting of his portrait, Jeff Bezos admired artist Robert McCurdy's attention to detail. pic.twitter.com/lHhzX6jibk
— National Portrait Gallery (@smithsoniannpg) November 18, 2019
Sajet said the museum had kids visiting the gallery Saturday and “we were having a hard time to tell them, please don’t touch [Bezos’ portrait] because they really thought it was him,” noting that the painting is “hyperrealist.”
“He’s really honored to have his portrait here,” she added.
— Haleigh Hoffman (@HaleighHoffman) November 18, 2019
The five other portraits were created by a different artist: Jon R. Friedman (Nooyi), Katy Grannan (Arnold), Annie Leibovitz (Wintour), Mark Seliger (Miranda), and Bruce W. Talamon (Earth, Wind & Fire). Bezos’ portrait is among the three to be commissioned by the national gallery; the other two were Arnold’s and Nooyi’s.
Each prize was presented by a well-known personality, such as former First Lady Michelle Obama, National Science Foundation Director France Córdova, record producer Clive Davis, President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Alberto Ibargüen, and English actor and comedian James Corden.
The evening featured Nepalese-American fashion designer Prabal Gurung as Honorary Fashion Designer and a special performance by Earth, Wind & Fire. Award-winning journalist Gayle King served as the Master of Ceremonies. Among notable guests were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former empress of Iran Farah Pahlavi, as well as several country ambassadors to the United States.
Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez was also in attendance. Facebook was the event’s lead sponsor.
The portraits of each of the evening’s honorees will be on view to the public as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s “Recent Acquisitions” exhibition that opened Nov. 15. The exhibit featuring 19 other new portraits of famous figures such as Audrey Hepburn, Andy Garcia, and Morgan Freeman will end Aug. 30, 2020.
The recipients are @francesarnold, @JeffBezos, @IndraNooyi, @EarthWindFire, @Lin_Manuel, and Anna Wintour. You can see all of their portraits through Aug. 30, 2020 in @smithsoniannpg’s "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition. https://t.co/tiHaf0RoSO pic.twitter.com/0aiSMAr47U
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) November 17, 2019