On February 16th, Wellesley College’s Davis Museum will remove and shroud all artworks created and donated by immigrants. The gesture, which will veil a fifth of the museum’s collection, proves how imperative immigrant contributions are to American culture.
The Museum of Modern Art recently made headlines around the world for swapping tentpole works of European art with exceptional pieces by artists from Trump-targeted nations. In a similar vein, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College is protesting Trump’s travel ban by bearing empty walls and black shrouds where 120 immigrant-created and donated artworks are otherwise exhibited. The effort is called Art-Less.
Art-Less will see masterpieces by legendary artists such as Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning (Dutch), Bauhaus artist and professor Laszló Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian), Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole (English), and Minimalist painter, Agnes Martin (Canadian), removed and hidden. Through the discomforting mass-absence of artworks in the museum, Art-Less will “demonstrate symbolically what the Davis Museum would look like without [immigrant] contributions to [the] collections and to Wellesley College, and to thereby honor their many invaluable gifts.”
The gesture coincides with Presidents’ Day – a national holiday celebrated on the third Monday of every February in honor of first American president George Washington’s birthday on February 20th. In keeping with the initiative, the museum will remove an 18th century painting of Washington, as artist Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller – and the family that donated the artwork – was Swedish-born.
All temporarily missing artworks will be replaced with a label reading “made by an immigrant,” or “given by an immigrant.” The museum’s website offers these labels to “sympathetic institutions” who also wish to show their solidarity.
The Davis Museum will remain “art-less” until February 21st.