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Smithsonian Magazine

The thorny politics of presidential portraiture

In a new podcast, the National Portrait Gallery reveals that a portrait is being commissioned of the former president

Smithsonian Magazine

Nation Mourns Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Who Broke Barriers and Became a Feminist Icon

The Supreme Court justice, who died at 87, “inspired women to believe in themselves,” says the Smithsonian’s Kim Sajet


America's Story in Portraits

American History TV visited the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., which first opened its doors in 1968. To mark its 50th anniversary, director Kim Sajet showed 12 paintings that have told the American story over the last half-century.

The New Yorker Magazine

Ted Cruz Vs. Margaret Sanger’s Portrait

Last week, Sajet wrote back to the Republicans, stating that the museum would keep Sanger, on the ground that excluding her “would deny the public and future generations insight on an important chapter in American history.”

Washingtonian Magazine

The Most Powerful Women in Washington

150 of the area's most influential women in government, business, law, education, media, nonprofits, and the arts.

The Washington Times

Art museum female directors more common in D.C.

Nowhere is the shift more evident than in the nation’s capital, where nine art museums have female directors, including Ms. Greenberg; Dorothy Kosinski, who was appointed to the Phillips Collection in 2008; Kim Sajet’s move to the top job at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in 2013; and Melissa Chiu, who last year took over at the Hirshhorn Museum.

The Hill Report

Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Kim Sajet

We’re the only National Portrait Gallery of America, but now I've considered everybody who could get online as part of our audience. And you're right, we've created all these fantastic ways to still connect with us.

Artworks with Rhea Feikin

Maryland Public Television , Episode 429.

Kim Sajet, National Portrait Gallery, talks with Rhea Feikin about the National Portrait Gallery.


The Obama Portraits and the National Portrait Gallery as a Site of Secular Pilgrimage

As the director of the National Portrait Gallery, I had a front-row seat to this “Obama effect” and had to manage my dream scenario of watching thousands of visitors pouring through the doors. The question I asked myself, given that we have hundreds of portraits of notable Americans on display, from George Washington to Beyoncé, was why? What was really happening? MacNaughton’s illustration confirmed what I had begun to suspect: viewing these paintings was turning into a form of secular pilgrimage, and the museum was becoming even more popular as a communal gathering place. […]

Art Matters Podcast Part 1

Hosted by Ferren Gipson

Director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Kim Sajet discusses the origins of the gallery and presidential portraits.

Sydney Morning Herald / The Age / Brisbane Times /

'Pretty extraordinary': The Australian in charge of the Obama portraits

"It is about questioning who got to be on the walls and why," she said. "In this country, portraiture favoured those who could vote - white men who owned land. There are far fewer women, certainly when it comes to racial diversity we have work to do."

Alabama Life & Culture

Director of the National Portrait Gallery to speak at the Birmingham Museum of Art

The director of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery is headed to Birmingham. Kim Sajet, who joined the National Portrait Gallery in 2013, is the Birmingham Museum of Art’s 2019 Chenoweth Lecture speaker.

FOX NEWS Sunday with Chris Wallace

POwer Player Plus: Kim Sajet

Our Power Player, Kim Sajet, the director of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery shows us Lincoln’s death masks.


Kim Sajet: They didn't see nationality or gender as a barrier to leading this museum

“I think it’s great they didn’t see nationality or gender as a barrier to leading this museum. It says a lot about the ethos of believing in individual merit that pervades America and the Smithsonian as a whole. Unlike other parts of the world, the United States still allows someone who has a different background and perspective into their tent. They value my contribution as an 'inside outsider,' and in return, I have a tremendous sense of respect, loyalty, and love for the country. It makes me want to work extra-hard on behalf of all Americans" she said.

Washington Life Magazine

More Than Meets the Eye

Thousands of portraits line the walls of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, from a painting of Katy Perry donning a cupcake outfit by Will Cotton, to the earliest known photograph of a president – a recently acquired image of John Quincy Adams by Philip Haas. The mere range of portraits indicates that the museum is accomplishing its broad goal of showcasing the American experience through individuals who have spurred the country’s progress. But museum director Kim Sajet wants visitors to dig deeper as she has done over a five year tenure helming the gallery, and ask: “What does American achievement really mean? Who got to make the decisions and who didn’t?”

The Washington Post

Women are leading 13 of the cultural institutions in the Washington/Baltimore area. For them, museums are no longer built with glass ceilings.

The 13 women who direct some of the region’s prominent museums are as different as the institutions they lead. But nine of them have at least one similarity: They succeeded men.

National Portrait Gallery, Australia

15 Minutes of Frame with Karen Quinlan and Kim Sajet

Delve into the lives, loves and labour of the world’s most prominent portrait galleries in this new international conversation series.

Vanity Fair

Inside the National Portrait Gallery Gala

Michelle Obama introduces Lin-Manuel Miranda (image: Justin Bishop)


James Corden Dressed Up Like Anna Wintour at the National Portrait Gallery Gala

“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 a commitment to pass on their knowledge and advice to the next generation. Equally impactful were their presenters, who proved that every person, no matter how accomplished, needs the support of family and friends to succeed.”


National Portrait Gallery History & Mission

National Portrait Gallery senior historian David Ward and director Kim Sajet talked about the plans for the museum as it approached its 50th anniversary. They also discussed the museum’s history and mission.

Smithsonian Voices

National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet Speaks to a New Podcast Series, PORTRAITS

The whole premis of PORTRAITS—and indeed the National Portrait Gallery—is that we are where art and biography, history and identity collide. Each episode introduces a well-known American, describes their portrait in the museum’s collection, and then delves deeper into the stories behind the person. The key is to invite fun and informative thought leaders who help us better understand how personal decision-making affects our lives.

New York Times

After a Late Start, an Artist’s Big Break: Michelle Obama’s Official Portrait

There is no prescribed format for an official portrait, Ms. Sajet said, except that it be a painting — not a work on paper — and that the artists “be respectful of both the person and the position they hold.”

Public Radio TX / KERA Think

How Portraits Capture People

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled official portraits of President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. And since then, other paintings of prominent figures in U.S. history have been added, including Henrietta Lacks. Gallery director Kim Sajet joins us to talk about these new works – and about how artists capture the essence of their subjects through these paintings.

Voice of America

1968 Exhibit Looks Back at Tumultuous Year in US

WASHINGTON - The year 1968 marked a time of great social and political upheaval in America. The Vietnam War had reached a turning point, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, and TV viewers followed everything from the Olympic Games to the first manned orbit of the moon

Herald Sun

Toorak College’s most outstanding students of all time

From trailblazing doctors and lifesaving scientists to para equestrians, authors, actors, engineers and artists, Toorak College has produced top leaders in every field. Subscribe to see 20 leading graduates from the prestigious Mt Eliza school.

Voice of America

Americans Get their Art Fix Despite Corona Threat   

Washington’s revered Smithsonian museums are among the institutions that are temporarily closed to the public. But all 19 museums, and the National Zoo, are inviting the public to visit them online, for a compelling collection of digital offerings.


National Portrait Gallery honors Bezos, Miranda, Earth, Wind & Fire

“Each of the honorees, we have their portrait in the gallery,” National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet told WTOP. “We wanted to make a direct connection with what we have up and how we talk about American achievement, people who have made a major contribution to history and culture, then have them come and speak. … None of them have been up before — and quite a few are brand-new commissions.”


Long before selfies, portraits were a way for those who could afford it to help shape their public image. Jim Cotter talks to Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery.

We humans, it would seem, are pre-programmed to recognize faces in everything. And with good reason: faces communicate. Being able to tell the difference between a friend and a stranger, and the difference between an angry friend and a happy friend, is vital information. And unless you’re a poker player, there’s a good chance your face will give you away. But a painting of your face, a portrait, can hide a multitude of sins. Kim Sajet is the director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, where the accomplishments of America’s best and brightest are immortalized in paint, on video, and sculpture.

WNPR / Connecticut National Public Radio

Ice Jams, Art Selfies, And Local History

The director of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery shares her thoughts on the art selfie app—and how to better connect with the art we’re discovering through technology.

The Guardian

The art of diversity: how power is shifting at the top of US museums

Positions that are typically dominated by rich white men are finally being opened up to others, but is change happening fast enough?

WTOP Radio

National Portrait Gallery salutes Spike Lee, Rita Moreno, others at DC gala

“Unlike the Kennedy Center, which focuses on the arts, portraiture really is cross-disciplinary,” director Kim Sajet told WTOP. “We have three things that we look for: (1) To tell people that we collect contemporary, living people. (2) We have their portraits done by contemporary artists. (3) The mission of the gallery being national and to raise funds for our exhibitions.”

Washington Post

How the National Portrait Gallery’s gala tapped A-list celebrities to become a hot ticket

“When I walked in the door, there were still a lot of people who didn’t realize we had a National Portrait Gallery in the United States,” says Director Kim Sajet, who came to the gallery in 2013. “If you knew it was there, there was this perception that the portrait gallery was like a nice, comfy sofa: Everyone liked it. It was predictable; it was in Washington and it was part of the Smithsonian.”

Washington Post

The Smithsonian is on a massive search for six new museum directors. Their work could reshape the institution for generations.

“The museums are definitely going to be different going forward. We added a lot of tools to the toolbox,” said Kim Sajet, who has led the National Portrait Gallery since 2013, making her one of the Smithsonian’s longest-tenured directors.

ABC News

Aussie link to Portrait Gallery in Washington

On his recent sojourn across the United States, Rod Quinn delved into the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. finding an Aussie in charge. Kim Sajet takes us on a personal mini-tour of America's Presidents Gallery at the NPG and discusses the new portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama.


PHOTOS: The Third Biennial American Portrait Gala Honored Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeff Bezos, Anna Wintour, and Others

If New Yorkers have the Met Gala, then Washingtonians have the American Portrait Gala. At least that was the case this year, where the National Portrait Gallery‘s biennial black tie benefit might have clinched the top spot for most star-studded DC fundraiser of 2019 (last month’s Mark Twain Prize might be neck and neck).

PBS / News Hour

In an age of #MeToo, artists accused of misconduct are seen in a different light

Chuck Close is famous for his large-scale portraits in contemporary art museums across the world. But recent allegations of sexual harassment have prompted museums to postpone an exhibition and remove his work. It's yet another flashpoint in a national reckoning over abuse, and how we reevaluate the art of those accused. William Brangham sits down with Kim Sajet of the National Portrait Gallery.

Sidedoor Podcast

Best of the Rest II

Listen to Kim Sajet, discuss the National Museum of American History's Great Historic Clock.

Rolling Stone

Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley for Official Presidential Portrait.

Barack and Michelle Obama selected the artists who will paint their portraits for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the museum announced Friday.


Frank Underwood Presidential Portrait Unveiling - House of Cards | Smithsonian NPG | Netflix

When fiction collides with reality: President Francis Underwood's official presidential portrait is unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Sidedoor Podcast

Young Harriet

In 2017, a photograph of Harriet Tubman surfaced that had been lost to history for more than a century. In a feature of the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraits podcast, we hear the story behind this picture, and how its discovery changes the way we see Tubman—not just an icon of freedom and human dignity, but a courageous young woman.

Harper's Bazaar

Aretha Franklin Performs at American Portrait Gala, Raising $1.7 Million

How Kim Sajet, the Smithsonian's secret weapon, is revitalizing the National Portrait Gallery.

NBC Washington

National Portrait Gallery Purchases Earliest Known Photo of a US President

"John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, was the last president to have a direct tie back to the Founding Generation, and the fact that he sat in front of a camera to have his portrait taken is sort of remarkable," Kim Sajet, director of the gallery, said in a statement. "It confirms that in many ways America was born modern; embracing not only new government ideals but also the last technologies that helped its leaders to become accessible to the public."

Washington Life Magazine

International Women’s Day 2020: First of Her Name, Long May She Reign

Born in Nigeria and raised in Australia, Kim Sajet has brought a wealth of global art experience to her position since 2013. While overseeing the museum’s collection of over 23,000 objects, Sajet has made diversifying the museum in every way a priority, including introducing Braille to all major exhibits and having a dance company in residence. She has authored and published articles, spoken at symposiums around the world, and was the president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, among other prestigious positions prior to her current one.

The Washington Post

Experimentation is key to success for National Portrait Gallery’s director

Hard to miss with her short platinum hair, Australian accent and throaty laugh, National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet is bringing attention — not to mention money and crowds — to the 47-year-old Smithsonian museum, where she has unleashed a series of experimental projects, boosted the board’s membership and broadened the definition of portrait.

New York Times

Chuck Close Is Accused of Harassment. Should His Artwork Carry an Asterisk?

“We’re very used to having to defend people in the collection, but it’s always been for the sitter” rather than the artist, said Kim Sajet, director of the Portrait Gallery, which has a large body of Mr. Close’s work. “Now we have to think to ourselves, ‘Do we need to do that about Chuck Close?’”

The Georgetowner

Women Cultural Leaders

The emergence of women as cultural leaders in Washington isn’t new, of course, but their recent growth in numbers may indicate a trend. It appears to have precipitated a burst of excitement and buzz in the city’s cultural world, especially in terms of possible and anticipated changes.

National Arts Strategies

How has your organization reacted to changes in the competitive landscape?

Kim Sajet, President and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, talks about her organization's decision to give away its three-dimensional objects.

Art Matters Podcast Part 2

Hosted by Ferren Gipson

Director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Kim Sajet discusses the origins of the gallery and presidential portraits.