Feast on Cupcake Katy at Smithsonian museum

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Used to be, you had to be dead 10 years before you could get your picture in the National Portrait Gallery. Now you just need 50 million Twitter followers and a best-selling album.

Joining the ranks of such great American singers as Marian Anderson, Maria Callas, Lena Horne and Joni Mitchell - each of whom has been immortalised in paint at the Smithsonian museum dedicated to historically and culturally significant Americans - is pop singer Katy Perry.

A recent acquisition, the 2010 oil-on-linen portrait of Perry by artist Will Cotton, will briefly go on view through July 6 (to coincide with a concert by the singer in Washington tomorrow).

In the painting, she is dressed like a baked confection.

Titled Cupcake Katy, Cotton's tongue-in-cheek rendering depicts Perry in a mini-dress resembling a fluted paper baking cup. She sports a candy tiara and just the faintest hint of a Mona Lisa smile, suggesting that, yes, she gets both the absurdity of membership in this elite company and the humour of the regal pose, which parodies French court painting.

So how did she get here?

According to curator Dorothy Moss, who spotted the painting in a corner of Cotton's New York studio while picking the painter's brain for names of artists who could do portrait commissions, Perry has just as much right to be among the museum's august company as, say, Michael Jackson, who is represented in the Portrait Gallery collection by a 1984 Andy Warhol work.

After Jacko, Perry is the only artist - and the first woman - to have produced five No. 1 hits from a single album, 2010's Teenage Dream, which Cotton also created the cover art for.

Acknowledging the Queen of Pop that she is, Perry's portrait in the National Portrait Gallery shows her holding a sceptre that looks like a big birthday candle.

Katy Kats (as the singer's most rabid fans are known) be advised: If you miss Cupcake Katy during its evanescent appearance, it is scheduled to return to public view next spring as part of an installation of pop-culture portraits tentatively called Boldface Names.

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