A new portrait of the Spanish chef José Andrés (Mieres, 52 years old) will be added to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, a museum that offers a review of American history through its protagonists. The founder of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization, dedicated to feeding victims in disaster areas, will be honored along with six other leaders by the Smithsonian institution, one of the most prestigious in the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the main face of the White House’s response to the pandemic, tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams, and filmmaker Ava DuVernay (This is how they see us, Selma) have also been honored with the Portrait of a Nation Award.
The Spanish chef is quite a personality in the United States, a country he arrived in when he was 23 years old. His adventure is an unbeatable example of the American dream. In 2016, former President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, considered one of the highest recognitions of civilian merit in the country. When he was granted citizenship, he said, “I fell in love with the idea that, regardless of your history, anything is possible here.”
The committee of the largest portrait gallery in the United States selected the Asturian “for drawing attention to the need for an equitable distribution of food in the world, but also for his ability to use food to comfort people”, explains by phone Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. The museum only advances that the portrait of the chef can be a painting, a photograph or a video. José Andrés already has a photograph in the collection. It is the work of Martin Schoeller. He appears dressed in an apron, and holding the handle of a huge pot with one hand and a wooden ladle with the other. Schoeller captured the image for the magazine cover Time April 2020.
Also having their portraits on the gallery walls are the late Grammy-winning music producer Clive Davis and children’s rights activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman. The committee thanks them “for what they’ve done to get us through three pretty grueling years,” says Sajet. The museum rewards those who are considered to have made significant contributions in various areas, from culture to science, and who have demonstrated a commitment to service to others.
The exhibition of the collection, which will include other works besides the portraits, will open on November 10, but the gala with the artists and winners is scheduled for two days later. It is tradition that the honorees choose a person to present their respective portraits. In previous editions, former first lady Michelle Obama gave the award to Lin Manuel Miranda; basketball star Patrick Ewing to filmmaker Spike Lee; and actor Robert Redford to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Sajet created the award in 2015 because, he describes, at the time there was a perception that the National Portrait Gallery was an “old-fashioned, musty and dusty” place. One of the main features of the museum is that on its walls hang portraits of all the presidents and first ladies of the United States. They enter the collection automatically, but the rest of the characters undergo an examination about their importance in the future of the country.
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