Tag Archives: Trump Photo

Response To Rejection Of Trump Portrait By Dr. Richard Kurin, Provost At The Smithsonian Institute

13 Dec

Julian Marcus Raven

2524 County Route 60

Elmira, New York, 14901

December 11th, 2016





Dr. Richard Kurin,

Acting Provost and Under Secretary For Museums & Research

Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall

1000 Jefferson Drive, SW, Art Room 219

MRC 040 PO Box 37012

Washington D.C. 20013-7012

(202) 633-5240

(202) 357-7031 Fax





Dear Dr. Kurin,


I did receive your letter emailed to me late on Friday the 9th of December 2016 in the afternoon. Below you will find my response. Please find your comments in red, mine are in black.


“We appreciate receiving your letter of December 7 to the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents,”

It was not just a letter, but a letter of “Appeal” consisting of over 20 pages in length and in response to the arbitrary, biased and procedurally illegal objections to my painting by Director Kim Sajet, which are clearly laid out in the appeal and Press Release. My primary email version was sent to the Chief Of Staff Wilkinson with the request that it be forwarded to each member of the board.


Is this email of yours a response from each member of the board? Are you speaking in the capacity as an appointed member by Congress to express such a sweeping opinion? Or was my request to forward the ‘Letter of Appeal’ ignored and given to you for a response? It seems strange to me that again in such a short amount of time, by someone not addressed in the email and in such a short and vague manner my formal appeal was not attended to by the right persons, since addressing any of the information directly in the appeal was not included in your letter! For your information, hard copies are on their way to each member of the Board of Regents so that they can attend to this matter as they were appointed. All of this has come about because Director Kim Sajet failed to give due consideration and due process to my application to the National Portrait Gallery as documented.


“…regarding your proposal to exhibit your portrait of President-elect Trump at the National Portrait Gallery. The Board has referred your letter to me for a response.”


This reply is another hasty attempt to continue to deny me my rights as a member of the American Citizenry to a fair hearing and redress in the matter of my grievances that has been presented before each esteemed member of The Board Of Regents. It is another insult both to the founder of the Smithsonian Mr. James Smithson whose dying wish, was that an institution bearing his name be established for the ‘increase and diffusion of knowledge.’ and to the clearly stated standards of consideration established by Congress in 1963. Nearly at every step of this application process so far, has been met with a disposition that shows complete and utter disregard, indifference and a willful dereliction of duty regarding the expressed Will Of The People, in this case expressed by the official support of my application to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery by elected New York representatives of over 200,000 people! There seems to be a continual effort to refuse my application before it has been evaluated by the Congress established ‘process’ that should be guided by established principles that should be honored and followed! It behooves me that this ‘process’ is continually alluded to and at the same time the ‘process’ is continually ignored?


“Consistent with recent tradition, the Gallery has long planned to hang a portrait of the President-elect before his Inauguration.”


It has only been just over a month since Mr. Trump became President Elect, and you say the National Portrait Gallery has “long planned”; please supply me with documentation to that effect at your earliest convenience. With the dramatic win by Mr. Trump, one would have thought that this ‘long planned’ event would have been made public as soon as it was planned as obviously it indicates that the Smithsonian is excited about this historic event and its ability to ‘Increase and diffuse knowledge.’


Why would a “long planned” event involving showing an irrelevant and dated photo of Donald Trump justify completely ignoring a work of art that specifically deals with the election, like the Obama poster did? Why is it only now that the Smithsonian is announcing this after my application highlighted the NPG established precedent by showing the Obama poster on January 17th, 2009? Also, since the subsequent rejection of my historic portrait has come to light in the media, why since it was ‘long planned’ was it not mentioned before my application on the 1st Of December 2016? Ah yes, I get it, it must have been a great secret because of the surprise and suspense surrounding such an exciting ‘long planned’ event, since such a monumental and inspiring work of art, an old, 1989 photo of Donald Trump, to quote the Smithsonian press release, “tossing an apple in the air with his right hand” was going to go on show!


Why would this ‘recent tradition’ be so prohibitive and rigid to even considering another portrait of Donald Trump that happens to be something that reflects the recent dramatic election rather than a photo from 1989, which is anything but relevant to the election? It is akin to you showing a photo of Donald Trump as a baby to commemorate this historic and unprecedented Presidential win that is pregnant with the massive potential increase and diffusion of pictorial knowledge! Since I imagine the ‘recent tradition’ alludes to the January 17th, 2009 showing of the election campaign Obama poster, why would not that same tradition demand a politically relevant work of art be shown like the Obama poster was? Why would the Smithsonian which ‘owns’ 8 Obama portraits, according to Director Sajet, be so closed to the idea of showing or even acquiring another Trump Portrait, thus increasing and diffusing pictorial knowledge? And why would it be so terrible to have 2 or more portraits on show at the same time for the inauguration for this most historic event? Why not show them all and include this undeniably prophetic, patriotic, symbolic and now historic portrait of now President Elect Donald J. Trump?


“A portrait of Mr. Trump from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection will be on display at the Gallery beginning January 13, 2017.”


So the Smithsonian NPG received and showed, whether by gift or by acquisition, a poster/portrait of then President Elect Obama back in 2009 before the inauguration of then another historic Presidential election and displayed such to commemorate and celebrate the massive increase and diffusion of pictorial knowledge, correct? And regardless of the questionable story behind the creation of the poster, one cannot deny its historicity and relevance to the Obama campaign and so rightly it should have been shown. It would have denied the art world a voice in sharing in that historic moment that so many millions of Americans celebrated.


When it comes to my application to show an equally relevant and historic presidential campaign work of art, mine is denied. I am not offering my work as a gift or requiring that you purchase or even consider my work for purchase, it is simply to show the work for the inauguration. My painting may not have received the same degree of exposure that the Obama poster did and there are reasons for that. The same resistance to showing my work of art at the Smithsonian was experienced since the first day it was unveiled back on November 1st, 2015. The hostility and hatred in Academia, Hollywood, The Media and especially the Art World towards Mr. Trump is more than well documented and that attitude was also directed at my painting! But regardless of the ‘degree’ of recognition, there is no doubt to the objective and honest mind that the sole, relevant and recognized pro-Trump work of art, portrait and painting from the historic Trump campaign was my painting ‘Unafraid And Unashamed’!


“The decision about whether to acquire or display a work of art at the National Portrait Gallery rests in the first instance with that museum’s director, curators and historians. I have spoken with Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, and concur with her decision to decline your offer and continue with the museum’s plan to display a portrait of Mr. Trump from our collections. Thank you for your interest in the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery, sincerely Richard Kurin.”


Mr. Kurin, again without giving a substantive educated critique, with no historical commentary, no election relevance or significance, no consideration as to the “increase in knowledge’ that would come, no consideration of the Museum’s standards for acquiring/showing a portrait, you concur with Director Sajet in her unfounded and illegal objections to my application.   If you were just a private gallery, you could be so arbitrary, but the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery belongs to ‘We The People’ and so you ultimately work for us. And so it will be determined by the appointed representatives/members of the Board Of Regents who also work for ‘We The People’ of the United States of America to serve our interests in the creation of our pictorial historical narrative for us and for our children’s children to enjoy.


“There is a process we go through when we acquire a work of art and it has to be decided by the museum’s curators and director, so it’s a process, and we really don’t need to go through such a process since we already have our own.” Linda St. Thomas



Here the Smithsonian has taken another approach in its reasoning for the objection to my painting. Here the ‘process’ again is mentioned as binding and yet in my case it is ignored since the consensus seems to be that the Smithsonian has enough art relating to Donald Trump. Amazingly the Smithsonian spokeswoman said you ‘really don’t need to go through such a process because you already have enough art of your own?’ Where is the ‘increase and diffusion of knowledge’ in such a statement? The application ‘process’ is voided, ignored and bypassed because you have enough pictorial knowledge of Donald Trump from 20 years ago? This statement would indicate that the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery only needs a few old paintings or photos of any subject and that is enough! Rejecting the idea that an INCREASE of new art, new photos, new portraits, new PICTORIAL KNOWLEDGE of historic figures and historic events are relevant and necessary to accurately tell our American story. It is like digging up an old photo of the Twin Towers from when they were built and showing that image alone to describe the horrors of the 911 terror attacks and of their destruction, willfully ignoring and censoring any image, this any pictorial knowledge that actually shows the attack, subsequent destruction, the chaos that ensued, the reconstruction and then ongoing yearly memorialization! My goodness, what type of an institution has the Smithsonian become?


So now art submitted by the People to the Smithsonian Institution, the museum that belongs to the People for consideration for becoming part of the pictorial historical narrative of the American People during this historic election of Donald J. Trump is refused because you already have enough images? Amazing, with the spokeswoman’s comments the Smithsonian is now even barred from acquiring any more Trump related artwork since it has officially stated that it has enough! Wow, in Trump’s case 4 portraits are enough but in Obama’s case 8 portraits! But then again, precedent by acquisition would indicate that at least 8 Trump portraits would need to be acquired to be fair to the presidential collection?


It is clear to me that Director Sajet’s original series of personal and unfounded objections, bypassed the requirement to have the consideration pass through the ‘process’.   So in effect you and Director Sajet have agreed, that my painting is not even worthy of qualifying for the ‘process’, since neither of you have demonstrated in any way how my painting does not meet the standards for consideration and acquisition established by Congress. It has been refused regardless of the established criteria for such a refusal! I would accept such an arbitrary refusal from a private institution where there is no recourse or process of appeal. Where on a whim somebody because of personal taste, prejudice or utter dislike can refuse a work without the slightest consideration. But since the Smithsonian Institution belongs to the people of the United States, every consideration will be given to every possible avenue of application and appeal to ensure that every respect and every detail of due process is afforded me as determined by the laws that govern the United Stated Of America and its institutions.


“A portrait of Mr. Trump from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection will be on display at the Gallery beginning January 13, 2017.”



By failing to even consider my application, by failing to show my historic work of Art, which is directly related to the election of Donald J. Trump, the Smithsonian has in effect barred any relevant commemorative expression in the arts from taking place and has abdicated its responsibility to be an institution established for the ‘Increase And Diffusion of knowledge’. The Smithsonian rather seems to have become an irrelevant and dated museum, using dated material or old pictorial knowledge, where the increase and diffusion of knowledge has ceased, one of the Achilles heels of institutions built on archival knowledge.


Some of the 60 plus million people who voted for Donald Trump, who will travel to D.C. for the inauguration and there after will have a 20 year old photo graph of Donald J. Trump “… tossing an apple up with his right hand.” to see at the Smithsonian! Wow! How intellectually stimulating, how enlightening and O my, how exciting!


Mr. Kurin, in all honesty how many people do you think are going to go out of their way to see an old, dated and uninspiring photo of Donald Trump throwing an apple in the air? Just on a purely business level this decision seems to want to fail or keep people away!





Julian Raven