National Portrait Gallery Commissioner Resigns in Protest

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Controversy surrounding a censored exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution has resulted in the resignation of National Portrait Gallery commissioner James Bartlett, who quit in protest over the Smithsonian’s decision to pull David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” from the “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibition. The national museum took the action after Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, called Wojnarowicz’s work “hate speech” and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, including incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), threatened to cut funding for the Smithsonian. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) called the exhibit “an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season.”
The censored work is a video, a four-minute clip of a longer work made by the late artist in 1986-1987. Apparently, the section that offended Donohue was an 11-second image of ants crawling on a crucifix. Wojnarowicz explained his use of the ants as “a metaphor for society because the social structure of the ant world is parallel to ours.”
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


Leave a comment