Posted inOpinion

Why Secretary Clough Won’t Leave the Smithsonian

The scandal that erupted when the Smithsonian’s secretary G. Wayne Clough decided to remove David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition under Republican political pressure shows no sign of calming down. Only in the past week, the Warhol Foundation has threatened to cease funding the Smithsonian’s programming if the piece isn’t restored (it will not be) and the New York Times has published an op-ed by Frank Rich declaiming the move as “gay-bashing,” and one of the artists involved with the show is requesting his work be removed from the show. The anger has expanded to the extent that some are calling for Secretary Clough, the single individual responsible for the censorship decision, to resign. Here’s why that won’t happen.

Posted inNews

Smithsonian Director Unrepentant, Curator Talks “American Taliban,” Catholic League Gets a Beer

At a conversation held with Hide/Seek curators Jonathan Katz and David C. Ward at the New York Public Library December 15th, a few things became clear about the censorship scandal: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan is far from repentant over the decision, and the Catholic League, who initiated the “offense” taken at the video, are largely absent.

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Artist Requests to Be Removed from Smithsonian’s Hide/Seek [UPDATE 3]

New York-based artist and artistic director of the Institute of Art, Religion and Social Justice AA Bronson has sent an email to the National Portrait Gallery requesting that his work “Felix, June 5, 1994” (1994/99) [pictured above] be removed from their Hide/Seek exhibition in light of the recent censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire In My Belly” video.

Posted inArt

Should Smithsonian Replace Wojnarowicz Video?

The Smithsonian’s decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video from its Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is already made and done. The piece is gone, but it has popped up in a number of other locations, including a display at the New Museum and Transformer Gallery in DC. The question is, should the piece be restored to Hide/Seek? I’d say that it doesn’t really matter any more.

Posted inOpinion

Leaked Smithsonian Letter Shows Administrative Conflict Over Censorship

As the Smithsonian censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video continues to make waves, it’s important to remember that the decision was made not by National Portrait Gallery staff, but by the absentee Smithsonian secretary. A leaked memo drafted by Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan and published by Artinfo demonstrates the internal conflict over the controversial decision.

Posted inArt

Interview with Hide/Seek Co-curator David C Ward

David C. Ward is co-curator of the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibition, which has become a lightning rod for right-wing attacks on the federally funded Smithsonian institution. The show is the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture. There are many LGBT images on display but the work is not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender artists and encompasses work by many names that are mainstays in art history, including Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Romaine Brooks, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, AA Bronson, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

But what has really catapulted the show into the limelight is the fact that last week Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough ordered David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video pulled from the National Portrait Gallery show.

Posted inArt

New Museum Director Lisa Phillips Explains Decision to Show Wojnarowicz Video

When the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announced that it would be removing “A Fire in My Belly,” a David Wojnarowicz video work, from its Hide/Seek exhibition due to Republican political pressure, the art world rushed to the work’s defense. Among the first art institutions to respond to the scandal was the New Museum. In a press release on December 6, the museum announced that it would be displaying the video in its lobby “as an act of solidarity with the many artists whose rights of expression continue to be limited by misinformation and fear.”

In a Hyperallergic-exclusive Q+A with New Museum’s director Lisa Phillips, the director explains how the museum reacted to the initial controversy and how the decision was made to display the censored video in the lobby.

Posted inNews

Smithsonian Ban for 2 Activists Showing Wojnarowicz Video


Two activists were detained by police on Saturday at the National Portrait Gallery after showing David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” on an iPad inside the museum. Both activists were ejected and subsequently banned for life from any Smithsonian Institution facility.

D.C. residents Mike Blasenstein, 37, and Mike Iacovone, 35, displayed the Wojnarowicz video at the entrance of Hide/Seek, the exhibit from which Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Wayne Clough had the piece removed last week. Guards at the National Portrait Gallery approached Blasenstein and Iacovone a little after 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, about 10 minutes after the two kicked off their guerrilla tablet exhibition … [Washington City Paper]

Posted inNews

DC Arts Community Protests Smithsonian Censorship (Photos)

About 150 protesters assembled at in the brisk cold outside Transformer’s gallery space before marching to the National Portrait Gallery in Chinatown. That’s not a small number: More than 100 people standing up for the memory of David Wojnarowicz and the sanctity of the museum as a space free from politics. These protesters stood up for LGBT rights.

All photos by Natalie Cheung, and reporting by Kriston Capps, critic for Washington City Paper

Posted inOpinion

Smithsonian Cowering From Idiots (video)

On a recent RT America segment, a Catholic League spokesperson is calling David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video anti-Christian and compares ants on Jesus to “putting a swastika on a synagogue.” The video was part of the Smithsonian’s Hide/Seek exhibition and was recently pulled when various right-wing politicians, goaded by the Catholic League, manufactured outrage at 10 seconds in a 30-minute video.