Nancy Spector, artistic director of the Guggenheim museums and chief curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim.

Artists and Museums Fight Trump’s Immigration Ban

Sarah Cascone of Artnet reports that while the Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments next month over Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York is partnering with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) to recruit more than one hundred art institutions to voice opposition to the order, all in an attempt to bolster the current series of lawsuits challenging the so-called Muslim ban.

The museum commissioned amicus briefs last March—a type of statement filed in an appeal by a person or organization that is not a party in the case but is invested in the outcome—in two appeals cases now underway in Hawaii and Maryland that are seeking to overturn the ban. The documents detail the order’s negative impact on arts institutions across the country and were prepared pro bono by the law firm Davis Polk and signed by the AAMD, the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, the College Art Association, and more than a hundred art museums across the country, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The AAMD spearheaded the mobilization of museums to sign the document.

According to the brief: “Museums plan exhibitions and performances months, and often years, in advance . . . The uncertainty of whether artists or other necessary personnel will receive discretionary waivers, based on ambiguous and undefined criteria, will effectively prevent the amici museums from planning many exhibitions and performances that are dependent on persons covered by the Order.” The brief goes on to note that Trump’s executive order, originally signed on January 27, has already forced museums to cancel exhibitions of work by artists from the targeted countries. Some of the shows and individuals affected include a Persian art exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a planned show at the Portland Art Museum featuring Syrian calligrapher Khaled Al-Saa’i. Iranian Canadian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli, who currently has a work on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, also opted not to visit the US partially out of fear of being detained upon entry, according to the briefs.

Nancy Spector, the artistic director of the Guggenheim museums and chief curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, wrote in a blog post on the museum’s website: “The effects of the ban have impacted every level of society: families have been separated, asylum seekers detained, and students and potential workers turned away . . . Within the art world, the ‘Muslim ban’ has threatened the values of cross-cultural exchange that lie at its very core.”

The Supreme Court ruled on June 26 to let the ban go into effect temporarily until the upcoming hearing this fall.