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Sculpture in Suspension

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

This sculpture has been commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery as the Portrait of a Nation Prize, given 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 Prize was born. Every two years, Rubenstein creates approximately five sculptures for this event.

The inaugural 2015 event honored baseball legend Hank Aaron, singer Aretha Franklin, artist and architect Maya Lin, Corporal Kyle Carpenter, and fashion designer Carolina Herrara.

The 2017 event honored Spike Lee, Madeleine Albright, Rita Mereno, Bill T Jones, and Dr. David Ho.

The 2019 event honored 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.

The next Gala Event will be in November, 2021.

Aretha Franklin sings at inaugural event

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