The Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, the highest administrative body of the organization, will be meeting on Monday January 31st with Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough to discuss his decision to censor David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition. An anti-censorship protest will be held at 1 PM outside the Smithsonian’s headquarters at 1000 Jefferson Drive SW.

Writes the press release for the protest,

When the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents meets Monday, Jan. 31 in Washington they’ll be confronting this controversy and Clough’s action for the first time.  They have the power to restore the video and fire Clough. We want to be there to let them know that his decision was wrong and it will not stand. Clough’s actions are a clear threat to this country’s largest cultural institution, the Smithsonian.

Public anger over Clough’s decision to censor the Wojnarowicz video has only gained traction over the past month. Immediately following the incident, art institutions including Washington DC’s Transformer Gallery and NYC’s New Museum put the censored video on display. The Warhol Foundation, a donor for the Hide/Seek exhibition, stated that it would no longer fund Smithsonian programming. The Hirshhorn, a fellow museum under the Smithsonian umbrella, has just released a statement decrying Clough’s actions.

Secretary G. Wayne Clough

The January 31 Board of Regents meeting and the news conference that will follow represent a powerful juncture to announce an official apology or penalty for the Smithsonian’s censorship. While it still seems unlikely that Clough would be forced out of the institution, this would be the time to do it. The Board of Regents, composed of the Chief Justice of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, three members of the United States Senate, three members of the United States House of Representatives, and nine citizens, is the only body to have the power to demand a return of the Wojnarowicz piece or force Clough’s firing. It remains to be seen whether this will result in a simple statement or real action.

Protestors plan to meet outside the Smithsonian Metro station at the Mall entrance and will then proceed to The Castle, the Smithsonian’s awesomely-named headquarters, where the news conference will also be held. Check out a google map link for more info. Assistance with transportation and lodging is also available for those traveling into DC, so be sure to get in touch.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

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