The Political Action Committee led by former President Donald Trump has made a $650,000 contribution to the Smithsonian Institution, which will fund portraits of Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump almost entirely for the National Portrait Gallery, marking the first time in recent memory. is that a political organization has funded a portrait of a former president for the museum.
Trump’s Save America PAC announced a “charitable contribution” of $650,000 to the Smithsonian Institution last weekend in a filing with the Federal Election Commission. As first reported by Business Insider, the funds will go toward artist and other fees associated with the Trumps’ portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told The Washington Post.
Two artists have been commissioned for the paintings of Donald and Melania Trump, but their names have not been released. The commission for the two Trump portraits is $750,000, to be covered by the Save America PAC donation and a second private gift of $100,000 from an as-yet-unannounced donor, St. Thomas said.
It is unclear when the Trump portraits will be ready, she added. The portraits of the Obamas were unveiled about 13 months after President Barack Obama left office.
While uncommon, the donation — and its use — is legal because Save America is a leadership PAC with few restrictions on the use of funds. Such political action committees, in addition to encouraging like-minded candidates, can be used to pay advisors, cover travel expenses, and cover legal bills, among other things. Most of the money in Trump’s PAC comes from small-dollar donors who respond to email and other requests.
Imagine the Smithsonian being attacked. This ‘army’ is ready.
Although the National Portrait Gallery was established by Congress in 1962, it didn’t begin commissioning portraits of outgoing presidents until 1994, when Ronald Sherr painted George H.W. Bush. In 2006, the museum added the portrait of the first lady to the commission.
In the past, those portraits have been funded by private donations, usually from supporters of the outgoing administration. More than 300 donors — including Steven Spielberg, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen — contributed to the $750,000 commission for the Obama portraits, which were painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, according to the Smithsonian. The donor lists for the portraits of Obama and Bush did not include political action committees.
The commissions for the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama made international headlines in 2018 due to the stature of the painters, who were the first African-American artists to receive the presidential commissions. Wiley is a contemporary art star known for his colorful and subversive approach, while Sherald was a newcomer at the time, winning the gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in 2016.
Nelson Shanks painted Bill Clinton and Ginny Stanford painted Hillary Clinton. Robert A. Anderson was commissioned for the portrait of George W. Bush, which was unveiled in 2008; the two were classmates at Yale University. Laura Bush was painted by Aleksander Titovets.
In April 2021, Donald Trump made his debut in the National Portrait Gallery’s presidential exhibition with a Pari Dukovic photograph of Trump sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.