**UPDATED: This release has been revised to reflect new information about the artists involved and their current visa status. It has also been updated to include a statement from MoMA PS1.**

(New York, NY) – An unspecified number of artists intending to travel to the U.S. to see their own artwork on exhibition have reportedly faced significant visa complications. Some have so far been unable to secure visas and travel to the U.S. Others have outright been denied visas under the purview of the Trump administration’s travel ban or due to complications with their asylum status. An unknown number did not even attempt to acquire visas because of their countries of origin.

“The travel ban remains a troubling cornerstone of the current administration, with news like this highlighting ways the government limits cultural and intellectual exchange at the expense of democracy,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “We’ve seen the federal government deny entry to students, filmmakers, actors, and now visual artists — ostensibly in the name of safety or national security. Today, it is unacceptable that artists being celebrated for their work cannot travel to view it in person as a mere result of the U.S. government’s targeted discrimination against those from the Middle East. The denials send a disconcerting message to cultural professionals everywhere: The contributions of international creative artists have no place in the American cultural fabric.”

“There is not just one story that encapsulates the challenges faced by artists in Theater of Operations who wanted to travel to the US for the opening, especially the 36 artists from Iraq and Kuwait, many of whom currently live in diaspora across the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas,” said MoMA PS1 curator Ruba Katrib. “Each of the artists has their own citizenship and residency situation, and as a result they face a range of obstacles that make travel to the US difficult, especially under current immigration policy. Some artists also shared with us they didn’t want to come to the US for personal and political reasons. In some cases, artwork is able to travel more easily than the artists themselves.”

PEN America has long defended the open exchange of ideas across borders and the value of cultural exchange. Through our work with the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), PEN America assists imperiled artists and fortifies the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892