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Cantor Arts Center to present When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art

Cantor Arts Center to present When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art


Reena Saini Kallat (India, b. 1973), Woven Chronicle, 2011–16. Circuit boards, speakers, electrical wires, and fittings; single‑channel audio (10:00 minutes); approximately 11 x 38 ft. © Reena Saini Kallat. Courtesy the artist and Nature Morte, New Delhi. Installation view, Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016–17. Photograph by Jonathan Muzikar. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

Stanford, CA

Major exhibition features more than 40 works exploring themes of immigration, displacement and home; rescheduled opening planned for February 5, 2021

Aligned with its mission to be a gathering place that advances dialogue on contemporary issues, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University will be the exclusive West Coast venue and the only site with free admission for When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art. This expansive group exhibition is scheduled to open February 5, 2021 -- a delay from its planned opening in fall 2020 because of the museum’s temporary closure in response to the novel coronavirus -- and highlights varied artistic responses to the experiences of refugees, immigrants and migrants historically and today.

The multimedia show, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), features 20 leading artists from more than a dozen countries and over 40 works made since 2000. It includes Richard Mosse’s multi-screen video installation Incoming, Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA’s recently commissioned The American Library – along with an interactive component allowing visitors to contribute their own immigration stories -- Reena Saini Kallat’s route-mapping Woven Chronicle and fabric and stainless steel “Hub” sculptures by Do Ho Suh, whose Cause & Effect was acquired by the Cantor in 2019. Upon opening at the ICA, the exhibition instantly received critical acclaim, with Artforum saying “Americans make for notoriously poor observers of global suffering; this show serves as a corrective,” while noting it has “something for everyone.”

The Cantor’s exhibition will present additional works not included at the show’s other venues: Nest by Diana Li, who is based in San Mateo, CA, and two artworks from the series Displacement by Brooklyn, NY-based Golnar Adili. This art was selected in large part because of its close thematic and artistic ties to the immigrant experience on the West Coast, and the Cantor is planning virtual programs with input from campus and public partners to further those linkages.

When Home Won’t Let You Stay examines ideas of home, place, mobility and belonging that touch us all,” said John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Susan Dackerman. “Its artists also recurrently work with elements of the sea, sites of transit and borders real and imagined. Bringing this exhibition to the Bay Area now is especially powerful given San Francisco’s history and geography in the context of national dialogue about migration. We hope it will act as a resource for research, teaching and conversation about some of the most complex, yet commonplace, issues of the 21st century.”

The exhibition will occupy approximately 11,000 square feet across gallery and common spaces throughout the museum – the first such comprehensive presentation at the Cantor. As visitors journey through the museum, they will encounter at the core of each installation the transformative power of artistic thinking to respond to and process aspects of global migration that impact the estimated 68.5 million people who are forcibly displaced worldwide and that reshape public discourse, opinion and policy in a politically divisive era.

The exhibition’s title, When Home Won’t Let You Stay, derives from a poem by Somali-British writer Warsan Shire, the opening lines of which have been adopted as a way to give voice to refugees and provide understanding of their experience. “No one leaves home unless / Home is the mouth of a shark,” she writes. Some of the artists included in the exhibition – who hail from Colombia, Cuba, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, among other countries – are themselves immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants or internally displaced people.

When Home Won’t Let You Stay highlights similarities between migration stories across the globe, but the artworks also express how unique and personal each story is. As part of Stanford’s commitment to utilize the arts as a way to understand the human experience more deeply and to strengthen community, I look forward to engaging more voices in our programming and online. Migration and issues of home and belonging are personal matters to many of our students, faculty, staff, and community members. Their voices are crucial for engaging in profound conversations about the wide-ranging issues this exhibition addresses,” said Maggie Dethloff, assistant curator of photography and new media, who will curate the exhibition at the Cantor.

Though Stanford’s art museums, the Cantor and Anderson Collection, remain temporarily closed to prioritize the health of our community in response to the novel coronavirus, we hope to welcome guests into our galleries, including for this exhibition, as soon it can be done so safely and in alignment with campus, local, state and federal guidelines. Updates about the museums’ reopening and event details will be available at


Press contact
Beth Giudicessi

Director, Marketing & Communications
Cantor Arts Center