Arts Desk

Stand-Off at the National Portrait Gallery


Fire in My Belly de David Wojnarowicz, Diamanda Galas
Uploaded by altimsah.

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.

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  • Lori

    In case you haven't seen yet, the Museum Caved to the pressure! They gave in to the "Moral" Minority of the Catholic Church! Where is the moral outrage from the Catholics when children are being molested! WHERE WERE YOU!!!!!!!
    Censorship in full effect due to one groups outcry! If you don't like it don't go see it! CENSORSHIP is Wrong!

    From the article:

    “It was not the museum’s intention to offend. We are removing the video today.”
    A spokesperson for the National Portrait Gallery said the video is the only item in the exhibit that is being removed.

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  • Eric

    The CNS and Republicans calculatingly made it a Christ-depiction issue at first, feigning offense of a touch screen video kiosk, in order to avoid looking completely anti-LGBT. Now that the piece is gone, they're still rallying the troops against the Portrait Gallery. They simply cannot conceive that the Portrait Gallery, which represents all Americans, would ever represent the lives and experiences of anyone different or outside their narrow belief system.

  • rich v

    The "artist" is obviously mentally defecvtive. But if people want display this garbage , and other people are stupid enough to believe this is art , the museum should not be forced to pull it. This is America. However , if someone wants to display anti-gay art and there's a place to display it ..... How about so called racially offensive art or anti-Muslim art? Can I display a lawn jockey in my front yard if it offends someone? Or my office? You liberals want the freedom to do whatever you want no matter who it offends. But if something offends you it must get banned. You're the same people who attacked Miss America for having an opinion about gay marriage that you didn't like. So you know what . I changed my mind. Ban all Gay art

  • K

    Who are you kidding rich v? You didn't change your mind; you went into this article a bigot and you can out a bigot flattering himself that his bigotry is justified.

    And those who called for this exhibit to be removed aren't fooling anyone either. They aren't "offended" that 20 seconds of an image of a crucifix covered in ants was shown during a four-minute video.

    They're offended that the person who made the video, and the artists who created all the other work in the gallery, was gay. They don't want to know about gay people, gay lives, gay experience or gay suffering. When they say that the only major museum exhibit focusing on the experiences of LGBT artists is being "shoved down their throats," what they mean is, "I don't want these people or their art to exist."

  • katyv

    Censorship is vile and people who cave to social pressure and choose to censor art and literature do not deserve respect. They may have a bunch of excuses but nothing makes censorship acceptable.

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