The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday night removed a piece of video art, A Fire in My Belly by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, which contains a crucifix with ants crawling on it and intermingles LGBT themes with Christianity, after complaints from Catholic groups and conservative politicians. Representative John Boehner, Speaker of the House as of January 3, and Representative Eric Cantor, who will be the second-ranking member of House GOP leadership, encouraged the removal of the video, and the two are now encouraging the Smithsonian to remove the entire exhibit. The Catholic website CNSNews first brought the exhibit to Boehner and Cantor’s attention. Some things the politicians could have done:
(a) Not commented.
(b) Said it isn’t necessarily within their jurisdiction as lawmakers to do anything about it.
(c) Said they wouldn’t personally hang the images in their own homes, but this is someone else’s work, and it’s art, so to each their own.
(d) Said they have an economy to fix, a WikiLeak to plug, and a Korean crisis on their hands, so maybe they’ll deal with the LGBT-themed Jesus statue later.
But why would Boehner do any of that when he could issue this statement?
Cantor’s rep said:
Some conservative politicians are now considering investigating the Smithsonian’s funding and artwork choices:
National Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan said:
A spokeswoman for the Smithsonian noted that federal funding is not used to specifically pay for exhibits, only infrastructure, curating, and staff.
This has, of course, all happened before with provocative use of religious imagery, with the Andres Serrano work Piss Christ in 1987, and the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sensation” exhibit, which drew fire from then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani for a piece that combined the Virgin Mary and elephant dung.
But Boehner is pushing for the removal of the entire “Hide/Seek” exhibit, which the National Portrait Gallery describes as “the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture.” Think Progress notes: “It appears that a celebration of anything LGBT-related cannot exist without inciting right-wing backlash.” So, the new congressional session should be fun. Just hide your Hockneys and Warhols. They’re apparently dangerous.
[This post has been updated for clarity and to include additional information.]
Smithsonian Museum Removes An LGBT Art Exhibit After GOP Threatens To Defund It [Think Progress]
Boehner and Cantor to Smithsonian: Pull Exhibit Featuring Ant-Covered Jesus or Else [CNSNews via Gawker]
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery removes artwork in response to conservative anger over GLBT exhibition [TBD]
Smithsonian Removes Video After Group Complains [ABC News]