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Vogue Beyoncé Portrait Heading to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Klaudia//August 21, 2019
A striking portrait of Beyoncé, shot by the rising photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue’s all-important September issue last year, is on its way to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

Mr. Mitchell, who is the first African-American photographer and one of the youngest to shoot a cover for Vogue, announced the news online on Tuesday.

“A year ago today we broke the flood gates open,” Mr. Mitchell said on Instagram. “Since then it was important to spend the whole year running through them making sure every piece of the gate was knocked down. And now I’m glad to share this picture is being acquired into” the museum.

Concetta Duncan, a spokeswoman for the museum, confirmed the acquisition, but said the piece would not be on permanent display. It’s under discussion as to when the photograph will go on view, she said.

“We are delighted to acquire this magnificent portrait of Beyoncé,” Leslie Ureña, associate curator of photographs for the museum, said in a statement. “This particular work brought us closer to Beyoncé’s words, appearing within the magazine’s pages, and showing us more of the historic shoot.”

Ms. Duncan said that since 2013, museum leadership had made a conscious effort to ensure 50 percent of its acquisitions feature subjects or artists that make the museum’s collections more diverse. The gallery also said on Twitter that its mission is “to tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape this nation’s history, development, and culture.”

In the Vogue photograph, Beyoncé leans on a white column and looks out on the camera, wearing a shimmering Valentino dress and a gold Philip Treacy London headpiece. A 23-time Grammy Award winner, the star saw her film of her critically acclaimed Coachella performance be nominated for six Emmys.

In the September issue last year, Beyoncé addressed a wide range of topics, among them motherhood, body image, ancestry and diversity.

“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like,” she said. “That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer.”

Mr. Mitchell grew up in Marietta, Ga., and graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2017. He then worked with the cerebral rapper Kevin Abstract and the designer Marc Jacobs.

“I depict black people and people of color in a really real and pure way,” he told The New York Times that year. “There is an honest gaze to my photos.”

His big break came in 2015: For a documentary photography program, he spent six weeks in Cuba, where he captured Havana’s skateboard culture and crumbling architecture. He published the results in “El Paquete,” a 108-page photography book.

His first solo exhibition, “I Can Make You Feel Good,” went on view at Foam in Amsterdam this spring, featuring numerous images and commissioned work.

Though this is Mr. Mitchell’s first piece in the National Portrait Gallery, it will be the second image of Beyoncé acquired by the museum.

A color photolithographic halftone promotional poster for Beyoncé’s 2003 album “Dangerously in Love,” with the words “CD In Stores June 24” along the bottom, currently hangs in the “20th Century Americans: 2000 to Present” gallery of the museum, according to the gallery’s website. Ms. Duncan, the spokeswoman, said the museum did not know if the Mitchell photograph would replace the 2003 poster. Neither representatives for Mr. Mitchell nor for Beyoncé immediately returned requests for interviews.

The poster, shot by Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri, was a gift to the museum in 2012 from the Chisholm-Larsson Gallery in Manhattan.

Robert Chisholm, a co-owner of the gallery, which specializes in original vintage posters, had not been aware of the new acquisition, but praised the singer.

“She’s certainly an iconic figure,” Mr. Chisholm said on Tuesday. “I think it’s great that they’re including this new photograph and particularly if it’s a new young African-American photographer.”

The National Portrait Gallery was established by an act of Congress in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968. The museum’s collection holds more than 23,000 pieces, including the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House, as well as portraits of athletes, artists and other prominent figures throughout history.