In an act of curatorial subversion against the Trump regime, the Museum of Modern Art has replaced several works of art in its permanent collection galleries with works from artists who hail from nations affected by President Trump's Muslim ban.
Jodi Hauptman, a senior curator at MoMA, told Gothamist that on Thursday night, after closing, the museum removed seven works, including paintings from Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, and Henri Matisse, and installed the new works, also from the permanent collection. Artists who whose works are represented in the museum's protest include Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, Sudanese painter Ibrahim El-Salahi, and Iranians Tala Madani and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi.
According to Hauptman, the idea for the project started brewing last weekend, as the curatorial staff considered how the museum might respond to Trump's executive order.
"In thinking about what we can do here and how we can show solidarity with artists and viewers, scholars, curators in those countries, we began to look closely at our collection," she said. They settled on the idea of selecting works from countries affected by the ban and buckled down Monday morning to plan the rehanging.
"It was, in a way, philosophically a gesture of inclusion we wanted to offer our public and our staff," Hauptman said.
The operation was considerably more complicated than rotating the artwork you have hung above your mantle. In order to make it happen, the curatorial team had to examine the collection, select works, and work in collaboration with staff across the museum, including conservators, master framers, art handlers, the PR team, educators, even security guards. ("We were here pretty late last night," Hauptman said Friday.)
— Museum of Modern Art (@MuseumModernArt) February 4, 2017
MoMA's fifth floor galleries focus on Western art from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries, so the new works represent a clear break with what a viewer would normally encounter. But Hauptman said the curators also wanted to put the new works into conversation with the artworks already on display. "We thought immediately we would do one work in each room as you travel through, and then we started to think about where we could find points of contact, where works of art could really speak to each other," she said.
The artworks, which encompass a range of mediums including video, painting, and sculpture, are each accompanied by a label explaining the concept behind the installation:
These artworks are by artists from nations whose citizens are being denied entry into the United States, according to a presidential executive order issued on January 27, 2017. They are drawn from the Museum's collection and are 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.
One work, a sculpture by Iranian-American Siah Armajani, was installed in the lobby.
Trump's executive order, which on Friday was revealed to have included the revocation of nearly 60,000 visas, has been widely condemned in the art world, part of an enormous backlash that has brought enormous protests to cities across the country, a flurry of litigation, and blistering public critiques from every thinking person with access to social media, in the United States and abroad. His approval ratings continue to tank. (Sad!)
"One of the things that you think about if you see these works of the gallery, is that if you have a ban, then you don't get to see these works," Hauptman said.
There is currently no set end date for the display. MoMA is also hosting an accompanying film series beginning February 13, which will feature work from Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran), Manijeh Hekmat (Iran), Ossama Mohammed (Syria), and Kais Al-Zubaidi (Iraq).