From Thursday, February 16, through Tuesday, February 21, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College is demonstrating the critical role that immigrants to the United States have played in the arts, both in their creative contributions as well as their stewardship of the visual arts, with an initiative called, Art-Less.
In support of the American Association of Museum Directors statement on President Trumps recent executive order, the Museum has de-installed or shrouded all works of art in its permanent collections galleries that were either created by or given to Wellesleys art collection by immigrants to the United States. This means approximately 120 works of artroughly 20 percent of the objects on view in the Museums permanent collections gallerieshave been either taken down or covered in black cloth.
Every permanent collections gallery will be affected by the subtraction of works created by or given to the Museum by an immigrant to the United States, said Claire Whitner, Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Collections, and overseer of the project.
Art-Less demonstrates in stark and indisputable terms the impact of immigration on our collections, said Lisa Fischman, the Ruth Gordon Shapiro 37 Director of the Davis, and we proudly take the opportunity to signal that impact, to honor the gifts of creativity and generosity that make the Davis Museum and the Wellesley community great.
At the Davis Museum, paintings have been taken off the walls, and objects under cases have been covered in black cloth. Paintings, bronze and wood sculptures, ceremonial masks, and more from the European, American, African, contemporary, and modern collections have been disrupted by this intervention. Absences created by the removal or obscuring of works from view have been marked with labels that indicate made by an immigrant or given by an immigrant. Sympathetic institutions that would like to underscore the contributions of immigrants to their own collections can download these labels for use at www.thedavis.org
In one particularly poignant example, the space that is usually occupied by a stately portrait of George Washington is bare, even as Presidents Day takes place on Monday, February 20. Painted by the Swedish-born artist, Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, who came to the United States in the 1790s, this oil painting was given to the Davis Museum by the Munn family, immigrants to the United States from Sweden after World War II.
Another illustration of significant impact is in the African galleries: visitors will be met with a sea of black cloth as a majority of the worksnearly 80 percentwas donated by the Klejman family, who immigrated to the United States from Poland after World War II, just five years before their daughter became a student at Wellesley College.
With the help of arts advocates from cultures worldwide, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College continues to strengthen its culturally diverse collection, which spans global history from antiquity to the present and include masterpieces from almost every continent.