National Portrait Gallery Held Its Inaugural American Portrait Gala on Nov. 15

First-ever Portrait of a Nation Prize Honors Carolina Herrera, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, Aretha Franklin and Maya Lin


The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery held its inaugural American Portrait Gala this Sunday, Nov. 15. The event honored individuals whose portraits are in the museum’s collection because of their exemplary achievements: The Portrait of a Nation Prize celebrates individuals for their accomplishments in the arts, business, entertainment, military service, sports and their commitments to service. The 2015 recipients are American fashion designer Carolina Herrera, American Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron, U.S. Marine and Medal of Honor-recipient Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, singer and musician Aretha Franklin and designer and artist Maya Lin


Establishing a globally recognized style, Carolina Herrera has resided at the helm of her eponymous label for over three decades. The image of the designer, part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection was captured by legendary photographer and very close friend Robert Mapplethorpe in 1979. The iconic portrait of the designer exudes the exquisite sense of style and commitment to sophisticated elegance upon which she has built her brand. This honor celebrates her role as muse to great American artists, and her dedication to cultural institutions and the creative fields of art, design, and fashion. 

The goal of the American Portrait Gala is to raise $1 million to establish an endowment for exhibitions so future generations can explore American identity through the evolving art of portrayal. The event’s founding chairs are Wayne and Catherine Reynolds. Co-chairs are the museum’s chairman, Steve Hamp, and his wife Sheila Hamp; Robert and Arlene Kogod; David and Alice.


Rubenstein; and the Ambassador of France to the United States Gérard Araud, who is hosting a private dinner for the honorees at his residence. 

“Telling the history of this nation through the people who made it is core to our mission, and these honorees—Hank Aaron, Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, Aretha Franklin, Carolina Herrera and Maya Lin—are today’s history makers,” said Kim Sajet, director of the museum. “We are continually working to build the Portrait Gallery’s collection to reflect American achievement by highlighting those who make a difference, and these five people are exemplars in their fields.” 

The American Portrait Gala will take place in the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, a signature element of the renovated National Historic Landmark Building shared by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Guests will be treated to cocktails, a seated dinner, presentations of the Portrait of a Nation Prize designed by American sculptor Barton Rubenstein and a special performance. 


National Portrait Gallery 

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story. 

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website: Connect with the museum at @NPG, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr. 


Carolina Herrera ( is an international fashion house recognized for timeless elegance and refinement. Founded in 1981 by Carolina Herrera, the eponymous label produces numerous collections consisting of ready-to-wear and accessories for women, men and children, as well as bridal and fragrances available in 105 countries at 15,000 points of distribution including over 125 CH Carolina Herrera and 3 Carolina Herrera New York retail locations. The collections reflect an effortless sophistication inherent in the iconic style of founder Carolina Herrera. Follow and @houseofherrera on Instagram for the latest news from inside the house.