Artist's Notebook

When do artists leave the country?

Marc Chagall, Remembrance, 1914, gouache, ink, and graphite on paper, 12 1/2 x 8 5/8 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift.

Contributed by Sharon Butler / On Wednesday, MarketWatch, a financial blog published by the Dow Jones company, ran a provocative piece suggesting that the time might be approaching for Americans to begin planning an exit strategy from Trumplandia. To cut to the chase, Brett Arends, one of their financial columnists wrote, “it is becoming increasingly clear that Americans should be taking reasonable steps to diversify their investments outside the U.S., including holding assets in currencies other than dollars, and where possible to acquire a second passport.” For the first time since Trump was elected, I began considering what might happen if he is allowed to stay on his twisted course. Would the financial markets crash, the rule of law break down, and the press be muzzled? What if everyone starts carrying concealed weapons? Don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe that Trump will be thwarted, one way or another–but what if he isn’t?

My mind wandered to the artists, considered “degenerate” or otherwise objectionable by the Nazis, who lived in German or Nazi-occupied cities in the 1930s and 40s Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, George Grosz, and others. How bad did things get before they finally decided to leave? Where would artists go today if the political situation becomes unbearable? Ironically, the first place that comes to mind is Berlin. The Germans are committed to democratic principles, Angela Merkel is arguably by default the leader of the free world, space is affordable, and Berlin’s art community is engaged and active. Among English-speaking cities, Toronto, Melbourne, Dublin, and Edinburgh are at the top of my list. Reykjavik, Iceland, boasts a large, progressive art community, and Copenhagen has always seemed intriguing. Watch Borgen and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I’m also thinking about Mexico City and Tirana (the capital of Albania), where the cost of living is really low, but life in these towns might not really be any better than in Trump’s America. To lower expenses, artists could simply relocate to Puerto Rico, a US territory and in dire financial straits. Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly dislike Trump and real estate is cheap.

Reading Twitter, I’m appalled by each new scandal and the allegations revealed in a growing number of emolument lawsuits. Perhaps my imagination is getting the best of me. Democratic checks and balances will prevail — right? I swing between hope and despair. I’m inclined to hedge my bets, and make sure my passport is up-to-date.

About the author: Sharon Butler is a painter and the publisher of Two Coats of Paint.

Related posts:
Art and Film: Stefan Zweig and the artist’s abdication
Artists under duress: Max Beckmann


  1. I think about this all the time.

  2. We here in the UK are having our troubles too. We are thinking about how to get out and go live in the EU or elsewhere so wouldn’t recommend the UK as a place to run to. Sorry and all that.

  3. That’s too bad. My girlfriend and I visited Liverpool and Manchester last month and we loved it! We talked about living there a few times.

  4. You have ventured into territory where the libertarian anarchists reside full-time. When it comes to diversifying your assets and multiplying your passports, no one is educating the public better than the man who calls himself Simon Black.

  5. Sharon, thank you for that. Especially the “what-ifs” and your candidate cities. We have proof that bad things can happen fast, but psychologically, we (I) resist uprooting. I stay hopeful. But the bad news is bigger than President Slug — it’s all the people who love him. You’re suggesting there’s a whole other world out there to consider. So I’m glad you broached the topic.

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