Art World Addresses the Trump Administration’s Travel Ban

Regardless of political affiliation, most American’s understand that the Trump Administration policy ideas will directly affect immigrants. One of Trump’s executive orders, referred to as the “Muslim Ban,” halted the immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Although Federal judges have ruled against the ban, the Trump administration has promised to issue a new version of the order that they say will stand up to judicial scrutiny.  The uncertainty created by the initial ban and the unknown language of a new executive order continues to cause negative impacts.  Artists are among those who continue to be affected.

Tim Cornwell discusses some of the artists and exhibitions that have been affected by the ban in his article “Art World Reels from Trump’s Immigration Ban.” He points to Iranian artist, Shahpour Pouyan. Pouyan is currently living in New York with a green card, and will be missing out on the opening of “Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians at the Aga Khan Museum” because, “I am stuck here. I can’t leave the country and as an artist it means I can’t make shows and present my work internationally.” He argues that in a world with increasing globalization, it is commonplace for artists to exhibit and collaborate internationally.

Because of this, artists and museums around the world are taking a stand against the ban. According to Aviya Kushner in “How the Art World is Responding to Trump’s Muslim Ban,” “hundreds of artists and dozens of prominent museums” have written an open letter disavowing the ban. The letter reads, “We the undersigned individuals of the international contemporary art field call for the immediate and total overturning of the Executive Order signed by the 45th President of the United States on January 27, 2017, banning entry to any non-US citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.”

The letter goes on to explain that this policy causes fear, and as a result exhibition and research could be canceled. Further, Kushner points out that the letter “emphasizes that the free flow of artists and ideas is crucial to contemporary art’s survival.”

Another arts organization that has taken a stand against the ban is New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The museum has dedicated their fifth-floor galleries to works produced by artists from Iran, Iraq, and Sudan, just three of the seven countries affected by the ban.

Sarah Cascone highlights one wall text in particular that reads; “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.” The text goes on to explain that this work has been installed in order to “affirm the ideals of welcome and freedom as vital to this museum as they are to the United States.”

Artists and arts organizations have taken a stand against this policy both through creative expression and letters of protest. Another example is an open letter signed by 65 writers and artists addressed to Donald Trump, which urged him to reconsider the ban. In the letter they explain, “Creativity is an antidote to isolationism, paranoia, misunderstanding, and violent intolerance. In the countries most affected by the immigration ban, it is writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are often at the vanguard in the fights against oppression and terror.”

The arts flourish where cultures interact and intersect. It is crucial that artists remain politically vigilant and continue to question and challenge policies that limit the exchange of information and self-expression.


Have you or someone you know been impacted by the ban? Below are some links to resources.


By Sara Kattler-Gold

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