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Warhol Threatens to Cease Funding Smithsonian Exhibits

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, the censor-in-chief, gets the Warhol treatment.

In a letter released today by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Joel Wachs, the Foundation’s president, threatens to cease all funding to Smithsonian institutions if David Wojnarowicz’s censored “A Fire in My Belly” video is not restored to the Hide/Seek exhibition.

In a brazenly forthright move by the Foundation, Wachs simply states that if the video that has been removed from the Smithsonian’s exhibition under political pressure from the right is not restored, the Foundation will stop supporting Smithsonian programming:

… on Friday our Board of Directors met to discuss the long-term implications of the Museum’s behavior on the Foundation’s relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. After careful consideration, the Board voted unanimously to demand that you restore the censored work immediately, or the Warhol Foundation will cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions.

In the past, the Warhol Foundation has donated over $375,000 to the Smithsonian, including specific support of the Hide/Seek exhibition, a fact that makes the removal of the video even more ridiculous and backs up the Foundation’s anger. The New York Times reports that the Foundation donated $100,000 for Hide/Seek. Warhol’s work was also featured in the exhibition.

But according to the Washington City Paper, the Smithsonian shot back later this afternoon:

While we regret the Foundation’s action, the Smithsonian’s decision to remove the video was a difficult one and we stand by it. The 104 works of the Hide Seek exhibition will remain on view at the National Portrait Gallery.

Turns out $100,000 is small change to the $65 million that the Smithsonian gets from foundations for its annual exhibits and programs.

Also today, Jon O’Brien of Catholics for Choice published an Open Letter to the Smithsonian Secretary who ordered the Wojnarowicz art work pulled. He writes:

… your decision to censor David Wojnarowicz’s art has sullied the reputation of the National Portrait Gallery and does a disservice both to the arts community and the public. For artists, it suggests that in order to be considered by your gallery, their art may have to be uncontroversial.

For those who would like some information on the Wojnarowicz controversy and what this is all about should read this, and a good place to keep up-to-date on the Smithsonian censorship controversy news is the Support Hide/Seek Facebook page.

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