As you may know, the National Portrait Gallery is featuring an exhibit entitled, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” The exhibit opened on October 30 and will run through February 13, and it is the first major museum exhibition that focuses on LGBT themes that span over the past century. Last week, officials at the Gallery removed a four-minute video created by David Wojnarowicz, which depicts ants crawling over a crucifix – the artist claims the film is a commentary on the pain and suffering caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Catholic League president William Donohue called the piece “hate speech,” and he urged the House and Senate appropriations committees to reconsider future funding for the Smithsonian Institution. Additionally, the presumptive incoming House speaker John Boehner added to the criticism saying that the exhibit is a “misuse of taxpayer money.” Boehner’s official statement about the exhibit also said that “while the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money.” Other conservative leaders and organizations added to the fray, suggesting that the exhibit was a deliberate assault on Christianity, especially during the Holiday Season.
In response to this pushback, Smithsonian Institution officials removed the film, stating that they did not intend “to be offensive by showing the work,” and that by removing it, they could “better focus on the exhibit’s strengths.” Museum officials said they “are sensitive to what the public thinks about our shows and programs. We stand behind the show. It has strong scholarship with great pieces by artists who are recognized by a whole panoply of experts. It represents a segment of America.”
We encourage you to take the time to read about this incident, watch the video, and decide for yourself if this was anti-LGBT censorship or a museum responding to legitimate concerns over a potentially offensive video.
If you would like to weigh in on the issue with the National Portrait Gallery you may contact the follow people:
• Martin Sullivan, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery (firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Richard Kurin, Undersecretary for the Arts and Humanities at the Smithsonian Institution (KurinR@si.edu)
• Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (Cloughw@si.edu)
And please use the comments section to let us know what you think!