In total, the Davis will take down or shroud in black cloth some 120 works—about 20 percent of the museum’s collection currently on view. Each of the works’ labels will be marked with a tag that reads either “made by an immigrant” or “given by an immigrant” (or, in the case of Wertmüller’s presidential portrait, both: The painting was gifted by the Munn family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden after World War II). On the list is Dutch-born
, and English-born
, among others.
“I think visitors will have a profound awareness of the enormous contribution that immigrants have made, even just within this building, and extrapolate from that,” the director of the Davis, Lisa Fischman, told Artsy.
Traditionally, museums aren’t prepared to deliver speedy responses to current events; most exhibitions take years, even decades, to organize. But Fischman said the quick turnaround for “Art-Less” was made possible by three years of research that went into the re-installation of the Davis’s permanent collection, completed last fall.
“We were perfectly poised to respond to this executive order on immigration in the sense that we had, by chance, by serendipity, a lot of deep research in hand,” she explained. “We all felt we needed to respond to the concerns and anxieties raised by this executive order and wanted to find a positive way to articulate the contributions of immigrants to our sphere. And we figured that not only could we demonstrate the contributions of immigrant artists, but we could demonstrate the contributions that immigrant donors had made here as well.”