The Daily Beast reports that Julian Raven, the artist of a 16-foot wide by 8-foot tall painting of Trump called “Unafraid & Unashamed” has been battling to get his art into the Smithsonian museum. The painting was displayed at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where attendees posed for pictures in front of the painting.
Raven’s work has proved less popular at the Smithsonian. He has been trying to convince the museum to display the painting for over two years without success. He lost his case in D.C.’s U.S. District Court, and is now threatening to take his suit to the Supreme Court.
When Raven asked the National Portrait Gallery to display his painting to coincide with Trump’s 2017 inauguration, the gallery director, Kim Sajet, told him that the painting was “too political,” “too big,” and not very good.
“The last thing she said to me was ‘it’s no good,’” Raven said.
Raven then filed a lawsuit against the Smithsonian, claiming the museum had infringed upon his First Amendment rights and his Fifth Amendment right to due process. He insists that the art world “is controlled by very strong political ideologies on the left.”
Raven first got the idea for his painting when he saw the then-presidential candidate on television in 2015.
“I just had the words go through my mind: ‘unafraid and unashamed,’” Raven said. “The image in my mind was this soaring flagpole, a U.S. flag pole falling to the ground. Right before it falls to the ground, an eagle swoops in and snatches it.”
Raven finished his work in a few weeks.
“It’s a painting of Trump,” Raven said. “It’s gotta be yuge!”
Raven said the painting has damaged his livelihood by pigeonholing him as a political artist.
“It’s been a very uncertain and oftentimes very discouraging journey that did affect negatively my art career,” Raven said. “My art sales just took a nosedive.”
Raven is representing himself in the lawsuit. A judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed his lawsuit because the museum has “what amounts to complete discretion in choosing portraits.” The judge also said instead of Raven having his first amendment rights violated, he was trying to compel speech from the museum.
“The First Amendment simply does not apply to government art selections, no matter how arbitrary,” Judge Trevor McFadden wrote.
Raven is arguing that the Smithsonian isn’t a part of the federal government, but is a trust run by the government. He also says the quality of the painting should not be relevant to whether it is displayed at the gallery.
“It’s not an archive of great paintings, it’s an archive of portraits,” Raven said.