Arts Desk

Smithsonian Sticking With Secretary G. Wayne Clough

G. Wayne Clough as he appears in Lincoln Schatz's "The Network"

Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough won't be leaving his position anytime soon, top Smithsonian executives announced after a meeting of the institution's Board of Regents today. Clough was first appointed in July 2008—and contrary to what some outlets have reported, he's not at the end of a five-year term.

"I serve at the pleasure of the Board of Regents," said Clough. "We have a lot of pleasure," responded France A. Córdova, chair of the Board of Regents for the Smithsonian Institution.

Clough stoked controversy in 2010 when he ordered the removal of an artwork from the National Portrait Gallery's first exhibit of queer artworks, "Hide/Seek," in response to right-wing outrage. "A Fire in My Belly," a 1987 video by David Wojnarowicz, was taken down after activist Penny Starr ginned up a war-on-Christmas outrage among fellow conservatives, many of whom had never seen the exhibit. The Andy Warhol Foundation and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation subsequently announced they would refuse to further fund Smithsonian exhibitions. Clough's decision earned a rebuke from the Smithsonian, whose regents nevertheless supported him throughout the ordeal.

In recent months, Clough has made a variety of media appearances, including a guest spot on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. He gave an extensive interview to the Wall Street Journal's Kelly Crow, who described the Wojnarowicz incident as a "fumble."

The Smithsonian has improved along a number of metrics under Clough's tenure. During the press conference today, he said that attendance across Smithsonian museums last year climbed to about 30,300,000—a high point for the decade. He is well on his way to raising more than $1 billion in funds over the course of five to seven years.

While Clough's term was reported to end this year, Smithsonian Chief Spokesperson Linda St. Thomas says "there is no contract, therefore no expiration."

"As long as they're happy, I'm good," Clough said.

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