Netflix has unveiled a new portrait of Kevin Spacey as House Of Cards’ sinister President Frank Underwood that will be displayed — not a joke — in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery for (almost) the remainder of the election season. The portrait, announced back in January, is by British artist Jonathan Yeo and will be display starting Wednesday through October.
The National Portrait Gallery is, of course, the home to the only complete collection of presidential portraits aside from the White House, along with iconic paintings and photographs of notable Americans including founders and civil rights icons. As such, Netflix and the Smithsonian treated the unveiling as though it were for an actual President. Spacey appeared in character as Underwood, joined onstage by Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet and Yeo, in front of an invited audience that included members of the real White House press corps. Naturally, the show went all-in on the gag, with series co-stars Michael Kelly, in character as Underwood’s chief of staff Doug Stamper, and Nathan Darrow as Underwood bodyguard Edward Meechum also on hand.
During the proceedings, which were streamed on Periscope, Spacey delivered a speech in character that also made plenty of allusions to Underwood’s criminal shenanigans on the show. Thanking those whose “sacrifices” made it possible for Underwood “to have risen so rapidly to the presidency,” Spacey made mention of the character’s many enemies, while also joking that “if this painting is hung at just the right height, viewers will wonder instead if I’m about to kick them in the face.”
The stunt continues a canny, fourth wall-breaking marketing campaign tying the events of House Of Cards to the real-life theater of the absurd that is the 2016 presidential race. Recent examples include fake campaign ads for Underwood’s reelection efforts that aired during December 15 Republican debate, and during the Golden Globes.
The unveiling is to be followed by an exclusive preview of the premiere episode of House Of Cards Season 4, which debuts March 4 on Netflix.