Within days of the publication by the Trump Administration of an executive order banning the entry of all refugees for a period, and of the citizens of seven countries identified by the Obama Administration as the most likely source of terrorists, the MOMA decided to enter into a resistance.
In its most frequented galleries, among paintings familiar to millions and among which hundreds of thousands circulate every year, MOMA has introduced works from artists from the affected countries.
Untitled, the first in the Earth Series, 1963, soil, sand and mud. Marcos Grigorian, 1925-2007, Iranian-Armenian. MOMA, New York
The Prophet, 1964 wood. Parviz Tanavoli, born 1937, Iranian. MOMA, New York
Where Les Demoiselles d’Avignon look out with confidence and even challenge into a new century,
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973.
was this on an opposite wall:
The Mosque, 1964, oil on canvas. Ibrahim El-Salahi, born 1930, Sudanese. MOMA, NY
Where Matisse’s dancers dance in an ancient rite,
Dance (I), 1909, oil on canvas. Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French. MOMA, New York
was this golden and flesh-coloured palimpsest, anchored in the green of Islam, of a boy’s induction into the blessing and protection of his father’s faith:
K+L+32+H+4 Mon pere et moi.(My father and I), 1961; felt tip pen and coloured ink on paper on board. Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, born 1937, Iran. MOMA, New York
And not far from the repose and fertility of a Tahitian paradise
The Seed of the Areoi, 1892, oil on burlap. Paul Gaugin, 1848-1903, French. William S. Paley Collection, MOMA, New York
was a drawing for a proposed building by Zaha Hadid:
The Peak Project, Hongkong, China, (never built), 1991, oil on canvas. Zaha Hadid, 1950-2016, British born Iraq. MOMA, New York
And our iconoclastic master Marcel Duchamp of the shattered glass
To Be Looked at (from the Other side of the glass) with One Eye, Close to, For Almost An Hour, 1918; oil, silver leaf, red wire, and (cracked) magnifying lens on glass, mounted between panes of glass on standing wood base on painted wood base. Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, American born France. MOMA, New York.
is in company with this
Composition 40-2011, chromogenic print. Shirana Shahbazi, German born Iran, 1974. MOMA, New York
And these reminders to us of European history between 1900 and 1945 hang close:
Hope II, 1907-1908, and detail, oil, gold and platinum on canvas. Gustav Klimt, 1862-1918, Austrian. MOMA, New York
A rare view of a pregnant woman who is also carrying the head of a skull in the folds of her gown. Not clear if the women at the bottom of the panting are hopeful or grieving.
Street, Dresden, 1907 reworked 1919, oil on canvas. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880-1938, German. MOMA, New York
We could quibble that more care should have been taken where paintings of mosques are placed because context is important.
But this is not about aesthetics or culture. It is about politics and the contempt of and for a gross political act.
A symbolic act by an institution which is a keeper of the way see ourselves and hope to be. Even if art never saved a single life.
The tab on the works of each artist from one or other of the seven countries affected by the executive order of January 27,2017 included these words.
And in Philly, in front of a permanent memory of the resistance, readings of pertinent articles of the Constitution in the presence of overwhelming numbers of police …………
People gathered at the Independence Hall, Philadelphia, evening of February 8, 2017