Henrietta Lacks Is Headed to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

A new work of art is moving into the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday. Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cells were used for groundbreaking medical research without her consent, is getting a portrait by the artist Kadir Nelson.

The portrait is scheduled to be installed at the museum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and will stay on display there until November 4. The portrait was a joint acquisition between the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, so the two will share it, said a release from the gallery.

“Lacks’ story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue,” Kim Sajet, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, said according to a release.

The gallery has a collection of portraits of former presidents and first ladies, as well as an exhibit solely dedicated to miniature portraits. Another is focused on women’s suffrage, according to the gallery website.

Lacks will be in good company at the gallery. Portraits of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled in February at the gallery, which has more than 23,000 items in its collection.

obamas portraits Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama stand next to their newly unveiled portraits during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. A portrait of Henrietta Lacks will be added to the gallery May 15, 2018. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Other former presidents, like John F. Kennedy, have portraits hanging in the gallery.

Famed artists like Frida Kahlo are also included.

Even astronaut John Glenn has a portrait hanging in the gallery.

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