New York’s prestigious Museum of Modern Art is taking a stand against President Donald Trump’s travel ban by replacing pieces by Picasso and Matisse in favour of artists who originate from seven Muslim-majority countries affected by the executive order.
Mr Trump instated a temporary travel ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A Seattle federal judge on Friday blocked the ban, which the President has called “ridiculous”.
The New York Times reports that the day before the travel ban was blocked, curators at MoMA began replacing works by Picasso, Matisse and Picabia in the fifth-floor gallery with pieces by Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi and Iranian video artist Tala Madani.
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.”
The fifth floor galleries traditionally document Western modernism until the 1940s, but now they will include works by several Iranian artists alongside Hadid and el-Salahi, such as sculptor Parviz Tanavoli and photographer Shirana Shahbazi, the newspaper reports.
Speaking to Quartz, 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.
Mr Cherix assured people that paintings such as Van Gogh’s ‘Starry night’ and Matisse’s ‘Red Studio’, which are hugely popular, will remain on display. He said the idea behind the change in the permanent collection on display was to find an “inclusive gesture”.