David Wojnarowicz Hub

Hide/Seek Art Exhibit, Including Censored Wojnarowicz Video, Heading to Brooklyn and Tacoma

The National Portrait Gallery's Hide/Seek exhibit exploring gay and lesbian themes in American portraiture, is set to hit the road later this year:

Fire_wojnarowicz Tacoma Art Museum is collaborating with the Brooklyn Museum to remount the acclaimed and controversial art show “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” which opened at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery last fall and closed last month. The show explores gay and lesbian themes in American portraiture, and sparked controversy around the country for pulling one work, David Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in My Belly,” from the show after complaints from Republican senators and religious conservatives. The video included an image of ants crawling across a plastic crucifix.

The Brooklyn Museum will get the show by the end of 2011 before it goes to Tacoma. The whole show: "Both venues will display the show in its entirety, including Wojnarowicz’s works."

Watch: Smithsonian Sec'y Wayne Clough Defends Censorship of Gay Hide/Seek Exhibit


Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Wayne Clough defends the removal of David Wojnarowicz video piece 'A Fire in My Belly' from the museum's Hide/Seek exhibit makes an unconvincing argument that its removal was intending to protect the exhibition rather than an act of censorship.

"I wouldn't characterize the decisions that people make regarding exhibits as 'censorship'. Basically what you're trying to do is to make a rational decision given the position we are in as a great public museum. I would say that we all make choices and every day anyone who develops an exhibit makes a choice about how best to engage people in the subject matter of the exhibition...All of us do that every day in our lives. We're not out to censor anything. Period."

If you recall, it was  a few hours of pressure from blowhard Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and various other wingnuts that inspired the censorship of the Wojnarowicz piece, which is a tribute to the artist's lover who died of AIDS conveyed via imagery which included Christ's suffering on the cross.

Watch Third Rail Media's informative piece including interviews with Clough, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Watch: Smithsonian Sec'y Wayne Clough Defends Censorship of Gay Hide/Seek Exhibit" »

Wojnarowicz Protestors to Set Up 'Museum of Censored Art' in Trailer, Directly Outside Smithsonian Exhibit


Michael Blasenstein and Michael Iacovone who were ejected and 'banned for life' from the Smithsonian for protesting the censorship of a David Wojnarowicz video piece from the Hide/Seek exhibit on gay portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, aren't giving up.

And this time they have permits, Washington City Paper reports:

Fireinmybelly Blasenstein and Iacovone will park a trailer they describe as a "Museum of Censored Art" on the 700 block of F Street NW, in two parking spaces outside the southern entrance of the museum. Starting next Thursday, Blasenstein and Iacovone (and volunteers) will man the trailer from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day until the exhibit closes on Feb. 13.

"The goal of course is to hold the Smithsonian accountable," says Blasenstein. "If this gallery on their doorstep doesn't convince them to do the right thing and restore the video, then the only other way we can think of to hold the Smithsonian accountable is to call for [Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution] Wayne Clough to answer for his actions in a public forum."

Inside the trailer, they will screen David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly," which Sec. Clough had removed from a National Portrait Gallery exhibit on GLBT portraiture last month following pressure from conservative political activist organizations.

Blasenstein and Iacovone are holding a fundraiser in D.C. on January 11 to help pay for the costs of the 'Museum of Censored Art', which will also tell the story of how and why Wojnarowicz' art piece, a tribute to his lover who died from AIDS, was removed from the show.

Find out details of the fundraiser HERE.

They also have a website — check it out HERE.

Hundreds March in NYC Against National Portrait Gallery Censorship of Gay-Themed Art Show


Several hundred people marched in protest of the National Portrait Gallery in D.C.'s decision to censor a video work by the late artist David Wojnarowicz earlier this month, Hyperallergic reports.

They have a great selection of photos, a couple of which you see here.

Writes the blog: James_barry

"Organized by Art+, a New York-based group organizing direct action against the censorship of Wojnarowicz’s video, the march began in the middle of Museum Mile and marched uptown along Fifth Avenue until the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is a Manhattan-based Smithsonian institution. Protesters chanted everything from 'Put it back!' and 'Ants in my pants, fire in my belly” to 'It’s Christmas, what’s wrong with you?' and the more satirical 'Free the ants!' Art+ is demanding the video be restored to the exhibition, which was ordered removed in late November by the Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Glough after manufactured outrage by right-wing media outlets and pressure from right-wing US congressman."

Wojnarowicz's video work, "A Fire in My Belly", was a tribute to a lover who died of AIDS, and featured, in part, a crucifix crawling with ants meant to convey the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

The WSJ adds

Linda St. Thomas, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian, expressed regret that the video's removal had overshadowed the exhibit itself. "One hundred and four pieces remain," she said in a telephone interview. "We're sorry that the video had to become the focal point."

National Portrait Gallery Denies Artist's Request to Remove His Artwork from Hide/Seek Show in Censorship Protest


AA Bronson, an artist whose work appears in the National Portrait Gallery's Hide/Seek exhibit (which recently censored a David Wojnarowicz video piece from its show over conservative complaints that the work constituted 'hate speech'), tells Modern Art Notes that he asked the NPG to remove his work from the show.

Says Bronson:

"My piece in the show, the Felix portrait, is built around the same subject matter as the Wojnarowicz. I realized that just from a position of solidarity with an artist who’s not here to defend himself I had no choice but to withdraw the piece from the show. I was hoping for reconciliation and I was trying to hold back from doing anything too extreme. I haven’t seen the exhibition but I’ve heard how wonderful and groundbreaking it is. I value that, but on a personal level I can’t support what’s happened at the Smithsonian, which I feel as also a personal affront to edit out that aspect of queer history. I can’t stand for that. So I made the decision to withdraw the work based on that."

The museum is refusing to do so, Tyler Green reports:

“The Smithsonian and the Portrait Gallery are committed to keeping all of the works currently in the exhibition on view through February 13,” Bentley said. “We will adhere to the loan agreement.”

I asked Bentley if the NPG would decline to remove the piece even if the National Gallery of Canada asked for it.

“The loan agreement is a legally binding document,” Bentley said. “So yes.”

The Warhol Foundation recently wrote the Smithsonian and threatened to cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars in future donations if the NPG did not restore Wojnarowicz's video work to the exhibit.

Warhol Foundation Threatens to Pull Funding from Smithsonian Unless it Restores Censored Wojnarowicz Video


The Warhol Foundation today threatened to stop funding exhibits at the Smithsonian unless it restores the David Wojnarowicz video piece "A Fire in the Belly" to the National Portrait Gallery's Hide/Seek exhibit. The Smithsonian, as you may know, pulled the Wojnarowicz piece from the exhibit after complaints from the Catholic League that the video, which depicts ants on a crucifix and memorializes the death of Wojnarowicz's lover from AIDS. 

Warhol Wrote the Warhol Foundation in a letter:

Mr. Wayne Clough
Smithsonian Institution
SIB Office of the Secretary
MRC 016
PO Box 37012
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012

Dear Mr. Clough,

The Warhol Foundation is proud to have been a lead supporter of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, but we strongly condemn the decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly from the exhibition. Such blatant censorship is unconscionable. It is inimical to everything the Smithsonian Institution should stand for, and everything the Andy Warhol Foundation does stand for.

Although we have enjoyed our growing relationship during the past three years, and have given more than $375,000 to fund several exhibitions at various Smithsonian institutions, we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear.

Last week the Foundation published a statement on its website www.warholfoundation.org, condemning the National Portrait Gallery’s removal of the work and on Friday our Board of Directors met to discuss the long-term implications of the Museum’s behavior on the Foundation’s relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. After careful consideration, the Board voted unanimously to demand that you restore the censored work immediately, or the Warhol Foundation will cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions.

I regret that you have put us in this position, but there is no other course we can take. For the arts to flourish the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.

Sincerely yours,

Joel Wachs

It's good that folks are finally taking action over this shameful censorship.

Also, Tyler Green reports that National Portrait Gallery commissioner James Bartlett has resigned in protest:

"Bartlett is the former board president of the Cleveland Museum of Art. The commission functions as a kind of board of directors for the gallery."

Frank Rich Bashes The Smithsonian Over Censorship [tr]
Watch: Activist Banned for Life from Smithsonian for iPad Protest [tr] 
National Portrait Gallery Censors AIDS Artwork [tr]


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