Sculpture in Suspension

“Portrait of a Nation Award” © 2015
Stainless Steel • 12″ H

This sculpture has been commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery as the Portrait of a Nation Award, presented at the biennial Gala Event to honor great Americans.

Story Behind the Design: Rubenstein was initially asked by NPG Director Kim Sajet to create a large scale sculpture for the front of its museum, to celebrate a great American woman, because at the time “the museum had too many white old men!” In an eureka moment, Rubenstein decided to celebrate the mothers and grandmothers of the United States, the unsung heroes that created our great country. He chose his belated mother as his subject, who coincidentally had been a curator and art historian at the Smithsonian Institution. In the eleventh hour, Sajet had a change of vision and decided to begin the NPG Gala Events, to raise money for ongoing programs. She asked Rubenstein to create a smaller version of the design, and thus the Portrait of a Nation Award was born. Every two years, Rubenstein creates approximately five sculptures for this event.

2022 Event Honorees: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Clive Davis, Ava Duvernay, José Andrés, Marion Wright Edelman

2019 Event Honorees: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Wintour, Jeffrey P. Bezos, Frances Hamilton Arnold, Indra K. Nooyi, and four members of Earth, Wind, and Fire, Maurice White, Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson.

2017 Event Honorees: Spike Lee, Madeleine Albright, Rita Mereno, Bill T Jones, and Dr. David Ho.

2015 Event Honorees: baseball legend Hank Aaron, Aretha Franklin, architect Maya Lin, Corporal Kyle Carpenter, and fashion designer Carolina Herrara.

The next Gala Event will be in November, 2024.

Aretha Franklin sings at inaugural event

“This one [Portrait of a Nation Award] is replacing the Wimbledon trophy…” – Venus Williams at 2022 Gala

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