The New York Times announced today that the Museum of Modern Art has acquired David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly,” including both the artist-cut 7 minute version and the 13 minute full work. The acquisition pays testament to the work’s newfound significance after being censored from the Smithsonian’s Hide/Seek exhibition.
Much e-ink has been spilled on the scandal that has attended the National Portrait Gallery’s decision to censor the Wojnarowicz video and we’ve been treated to some great analysis of the piece itself, but what strikes me is that there’s little questioning of how the event of the censorship will factor in to the history of the Wojnarowicz piece. What was before a striking, personal and intimate work of art has now become an icon of the struggle for gay artists to speak freely and the fight against censorship.
Art spaces including the Transformer Gallery and the New Museum have put the censored video on display, but MoMA is the first to announce a purchase. “A Fire in My Belly” has become more significant from the impact of the censorship scandal, and this acquisition is another vote for its continued prominence in the art world textbook. The question is, will the video’s iconic stature last? Is “A Fire in My Belly” the next “Execution of Emperor Maximilian”? A work that is by all means excellent in and of itself could become reduced to its unwilling involvement in political scandal.
Catch “A Fire in My Belly” by David Wojnarowicz in full below.