Just in time for World AIDS Day, the Secretary of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. pulled a video yesterday from an exhibit called "Hide/Seek" at the National Portrait Gallery. According to a great website for the show (click here), "This is the first major exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture." It's a survey that encompasses portraits of everyone from Walt Whitman to Ellen deGeneres, in photos, paintings, drawings, and video.
According to the indispensable Peteykins at Princess Sparkle Pony:
"Unbelievable: earlier today, the assholes at the Catholic League and CNS News, a hardcore right-wing Catholic "news" site, complained about the National Portrait Gallery's excellent Hide/Seek exhibition. They were particularly offended by David Wojnarowicz' "A Fire in My Belly" video, which includes a crucifix crawling with ants. Soon enough, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Jack Kingston (R-GA) threatened the museum's funding and *poof* the video was removed. Just like that."
Peteykins also decries the lack of attention the issue is getting, and as a museum employee himself he is seriously unamused at the spinelessness of the Smithsonian management. The arts journalist Tyler Green is also following the story as it breaks, and is similarly unamused.
David Wojnarowicz died very publicly of AIDS in 1992 at age 37, and documented much of the whole miserable process while raging at the political world around him. To be erasing his work at this moment is stupid and shitty.
If you would like, please make your displeasure known by contacting the gentleman at the bottom of this press release from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery:
“Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” is an exhibition of 105 works of art that span more than a century of American art and culture. One work, a four-minute video portrait by artist David Wojnarowicz (1987), shows images that may be offensive to some. The exhibition also includes works by highly regarded artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Thomas Eakins and Annie Leibowitz.
I regret that some reports about the exhibit have created an impression that the video is intentionally sacrilegious. In fact, the artist’s intention was to depict the suffering of an AIDS victim. It was not the museum’s intention to offend. We have removed the video. I encourage people to visit the exhibition online or in the building.
Public comments can be directed to National Portrait Gallery
PO Box 37012
Washington, D.C. 20013
National Portrait Gallery
Nov. 30, 2010