As the effects of President Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ are felt around the globe, the art world has been anything but silent. Responding to the executive order, the Museum of Modern Art has replaced some of its permanent pieces with works by artists from traditionally Muslim countries that have been singled out in Trump’s travel ban.
Works by artists including LA-based Iranian video artist Tala Madani, photographer Shirana Shahbazi and iconic Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid are now being shown on the museum’s fifth-floor, which is usually home to work by western artists such as Matisse and Picasso.
Each new piece has been taken from the museum’s permanent collection. Next to each work appears a piece of wall text, stating: “This work is by an artist from a nation whose citizens are being denied entry to the United States, according to a presidential executive order issued on Jan 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.”
Christophe Cherix, the museum’s chief curator of drawings and prints, said there will be more works by artists from the seven countries displayed over the ensuing months.
“A number of artists in our collection suddenly couldn’t travel the way they used to and share their work and ideas. We wanted to reaffirm that belief that art [museums] should be a place where people from all over the world can gather,” he said.
Other major artists being reshuffled from the fifth floor galleries to make way for the works include Kokoschka, Ensor and Boccioni, while a large steel sculpture by Iranian artist Siah Armajani has been set in the lobby.
This isn’t a first time that MoMA has given a voice and space to marginalised communities. The museum recently announced its partnership with Open Art Space to provide a space where LGBTQ-identifying teens and allies can create art together.
Photography: Siah Armajani, “Elements Number 30” (1990). Photo by Robert Gerhardt.