Controversy Offers Numerous Viewpoints

Dec 6, 2010

This past week The National Portrait Gallery pulled a four-minute video by David Wojnarowicz from the exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” the first major museum exhibition
showing how questions of gender and sexual identity have dramatically shaped the creation of modern
American portraiture.

It was pulled after Bill Donohue, president of Catholic League, referred to the video, which shows ants walking on Jesus on a crucifix, as "hate speech." The situation has generated much talk about  government funding for the arts, but it also showcases different viewpoints.
Only a week-old and the commentary has included perspectives from (or about) the GLBT community, people inflicted with AIDS, religions (both Christians and Muslims have been mentioned), and political parties. Below is a variety of commentary which can inform our field as we address the short- and long-term implications.

From "Piss Christ" to Ant-Covered Jesus: The Culture Wars Resume - CultureGrrl - Lee Rosenbaum's cultural commentary (December 1, 2010) NOTE: Culture Grrl also covered this topic with an interview with Martin Sullivan, director, National Portrait GalleryNPR's Podcast; AAMD’s Strong Statement on "Hide/Seek" Controversy;Blogbacks; and on Protesters Bring Banned Video (on iPad) into National Portrait Gallery.

Smithsonian Under Fire for Gay Portraiture Exhibit - NPR - (December 1, 2010)

'Tis the Season for Controversy
- Washington Blade (December 1, 2010)

Under Pressure, National Portrait Gallery Removes 'Ant Crucifix' Video
features links to The ObjectionsThe Threat; We Can't Start Sanitizing Museums; When Did Ants Become Sacrilegious?;Get Your Priorities Straight, Guys; Government Should Not Be Doing This; Hmm, Are You Sure This Is About Jesus and Not Homosexuality?; and Love That Eighties Nostalgia! - The Atlantic Wire (December 1, 2010)

Duplicity Marks Washington Post
- Catholic League (December 3, 2010)

Controversy at the National Portrait Gallery - PFLAG blog (December 6, 2010)

On Censorship, Free Speech And The National Portrait Gallery - Arts Journal's Real Clear Arts (December 6, 2010)

Two Museum Associations Offer Opposing Statements Surrounding National Portrait Gallery Controversy - Unbeige (December 6, 2010)

Photo: Camouflage Self Portrait (Red), Andy Warhol, Philadelphia Museum of Art © 2001 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Artists Rights Society (ARS). New York.