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Modern art for a 21st century couple – Barack and Michelle Obama get decorating

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Barack and Michelle have been busy finding artwork to adorn the private rooms of the White House and the Oval Office. "The first lady had clear ideas about what they were aiming for," the building's curator said
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 Photo: © Rex

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Among the works chosen by the couple is a piece by Edward Ruscha titled I Think I'll… , which superimposes phrases on top of a sunset. The amount of modern work chosen by the couple is said to exceed that hung by any former occupants 

08 OCTOBER 2009

Ever since the presidential inauguration in January, the Obama family have been working hard to make their mark on the White House.

From purchasing the 'first dog', to a special Hawaiian-themed party on the lawn, Barack and Michelle have managed to put their print on their new home.

And now they have done so - literally - by decorating their private rooms and the Oval Office with a range of modern and abstract art.

Michelle and her husband teamed up with a Californian decorator and the White House's curator William Allman to choose the works, which include both paintings and sculptures.

"The first lady had clear ideas about what they were aiming for," William revealed. "They knew their tastes."

Among the art pieces, which can only be hung in private rooms and offices rather than historic public spaces, is a bold canvas by Edward Ruscha titled I Think I'll….

It shows a painted red sunset with phrases such as "I' think I'll" and "maybe…no" inscribed on top.

There are also paintings by contemporary American print maker Jasper Johns and Alma Thomas, an African-American abstract painter.

Sculptures chosen by the president and his first lady include a steam boat paddle wheel, a patent model for a gear cutter and bronze figurines.

Their choices are "great art to live with," said the curator of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery – where many of the items come from.

"A lot of it is challenging. There are different styles: figurative art, abstract art."

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