You may think of museums as musty old storehouses of history, or perhaps a holding tank for the outlandish. But a couple of treasure houses in New York now refute the notion by mounting shows that pointedly tie to the biggest news maker of the day – Donald Trump. Even before two courts ruled against the president’s travel ban, the Museum of Modern Art made a case, opposing his executive order by taking down the art of famous painters like Picasso and Matisse and showcasing sculpture, painting, and photography from its collection by artists from the Muslim nations that he sought to keep from entering the U.S.

The point was obvious: look what cross-culture can do.

A many splendored thing

Consider the painting by Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, whose U.S. buildings include the Broad Art Museum in Michigan, and her soon-to-be-completed One Thousand Museum in Miami. Her painting, entitled “The Peak Project, Hong Kong, China,” shows splintered forms based on her designs for a project on a craggy mountain site that was never built. Given the decidedly futuristic way that Hadid visualized the world, the painting could be taken as Hadid wagging her finger at Trump and telling him that unless he’s talking about math, there’s no one way to look at the world.

Lights, camera, action!

The other New York museum linking an exhibit to Trump is the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, where the actor Shia LaBeouf mounted a webcam on an outside wall showing an ongoing film of Trump’s presidency, beginning from the day he was inaugurated, titled “He will not divide us.” The film was to run throughout Trump’s term in office, but the museum removed it this week, saying the film had provoked violence.

Clashes between supporters of the president and those oppose raged, and several people were arrested, including LaBeouf.

Some things are worthy trying

One may wonder why the museum couldn’t simply have moved the camera inside. A board member told the press that the exhibit was a mistake and should never have happened. This column disagrees.

Hopefully, as art museums take on the world around it more and more, they’ll get better at being relevant without causing riots. But while the exhibit could have been done differently, the idea behind it was a good one, in that it transformed the Museum of the Moving Image -- a place of history, technique and technology of film, television and digital media -- into a showcase of a living art form. Art is about life, after all. Kudos to these venues for trying to be relevant.