As January 20, the day of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration draws near, museums and galleries, as well as artists, critics, and other cultural workers are gearing up by planning strikes in protest of a Trump administration and organizing programming to address and add to the ongoing political discourse.
More than 250 artists and critics have signed a petition, known as the “J20 Art Strike,” calling for cultural institutions to close as an “act of noncompliance.” The call to action urges people “to combat the normalization of Trumpism—a toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism, and oligarchic rule.”
Among the signatories of the strike are Hilton Als, Yve-Alain Bois, Paul Chan, Hans Haacke, Barbara Kruger, Lucy Lippard, Dread Scott, Richard Serra, and Cindy Sherman. The petition states: “It is not a strike against art, theater or any other cultural form. It is an invitation to motivate these activities anew, to reimagine these spaces as places where resistant forms of thinking, seeing, feeling and acting can be produced.”
A number of arts institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Seattle Art Museum, will answer the call for disruption by offering free admission. Kathryn Potts, associate director and chair of education at the Whitney Museum of American Art, said that the institution will be open on a pay-what-you-wish basis “to affirm our commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement, and the diversity of American art and culture.” Special programming will be offered, including “‘My America’ guided tours, exploring immigration, ethnicity, race, and the complexity of American identity through the Whitney’s collection.”
The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, will also be free during inauguration weekend and is inviting visitors to take its “Nasty Woman” tour on Sunday, January 22, which will explore “a diverse cast of ‘nasty women’ who refused to let men define their place; thumbed their noses at the limited roles society accorded them; and blazed a trail as artists, activist, and innovators.”
Artists and arts organizations have recently come under fire for their role in participating in Trump’s inauguration celebrations. The Saint Louis Art Museum has been criticized for loaning its George Caleb Bingham painting, Verdict of the People, 1854–55, which depicts the announcement of election results at a Missouri county courthouse, for the inaugural luncheon. A petition with over 3,000 signatures is calling for the institution to withdraw the work.
The US presidential inauguration committee has had trouble securing artists and musicians to perform at the ceremonies. According to Vulture.com, Elton John, Céline Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Garth Brooks, David Foster, Rebecca Ferguson, and Charlotte Church have all declined offers to participate. The current talent lineup includes the Rockettes, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and sixteen-year-old America’s Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho.