The New York Times notes one of the more striking and creative acts of defiance from a cultural institution since the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban, and it’s happening at New York’s own Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
In one of the strongest protests yet by a major cultural institution, the museum has reconfigured its fifth-floor permanent-collection galleries — interrupting its narrative of Western Modernism, from Cézanne through World War II — to showcase contemporary art from Iran, Iraq and Sudan, whose citizens are subject to the ban. A Picasso came down. Matisse, down. Ensor, Boccioni, Picabia, Burri: They made way for artists who, if they are alive and abroad, cannot see their work in the museum’s most august galleries. (A work from a Syrian artist has been added to the film program. The other affected countries are Somalia, Yemen and Libya.)
The works will be up for several months, and alongside each painting, sculpture, or photograph is a text that makes no bones about why it has suddenly surfaced: “This work is by an artist from a nation whose citizens are being denied entry into the United States, according to a presidential executive order issued on January 27, 2017. This is one of several such artworks from the Museum’s collection installed throughout the fifth-floor galleries to affirm the ideals of welcome and freedom as vital to this Museum, as they are to the United States.”
As a New York City museumgoer I can’t stress how remarkable this is. Unlike downtown and Brooklyn and even some small East Side museums, MOMA — a wonderful museum with a great collection, don’t get me wrong— falls on the rather mainstream end of the spectrum, both in the crowd it draws and its exhibits. It embraces the popular, attracts huge lines, and features exhibits by stars of the screen, the stage and the history of art. Now, museumgoers arriving in midtown seeking the greatest hits of the 20th century and today will be faced with a stark reminder of the real-life consequences of the Trump regime.