Stand-Off at the National Portrait Gallery
The Hill reports that House Speaker–designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are calling for the National Portrait Gallery to remove "Hide/Seek," an exhibit highlighting GLBT themes in American portraiture.
National Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan says that he has heard no such thing.
"It is not the intention of the Smithsonian to pull the exhibit," Sullivan said. "We are affirming that our intention is that the exhibition will stay up through the middle of February."
Sullivan and the exhibition's co-curator, David Ward—acting in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and various committees that interact with Congress—pulled a video artwork by David Wojnarowicz following conservative complaints. A Fire in My Belly (1987) drew criticism from the conservative Cybercast News Service on Monday—criticism that earned a link from the Drudge Report. (The original work is 30 minutes in length; a 4-minute edited version appeared in the show.)
CNS's Penny Starr portrayed the work as a piece hung to offend Christians on the upcoming Christmas holiday—though the piece has been on exhibit since October 30.
Sullivan said that staff at all levels of the National Portrait Gallery have fielded complaints following the report. He could not quantify this outrage but said it was "certainly more than a smattering."
He did not feel that many—if any—of the complaints received since yesterday has been registered by a viewer who has been personally offended by or even seen the work in question.
"We don't feel at all happy about seeing this uninformed pressure from people who have read news accounts," Sullivan said.
More updates as the story unfolds.