The interwebs are all abuzz today with news about an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. The exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
features a video by artist David Wojnarowicz (who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992). The video, created in 1987, is titled “A Fire in My Belly,” made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987.
An 11-second portion of the 4 minutes on display (the actual film is 30 minutes long), features a cross with ants crawling over it.
Today, after just a few hours of pressure from The Catholic League, who complained that the piece was “designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians,” the museum shut down the exhibit, effectively censoring the artwork of an openly-gay artist who died from AIDS – on World AIDS Day.
Since last night, pundits have been attacking the exhibit as a tax dollar-funded installation. Glenn Beck said about the exhibit:
“And then you have the tax dollars funding this wonderful art display. It’s Christmas at the Smithsonian.”
And this morning, Fox & Friends reported:
“Your taxpayer dollars being used for this: A picture of Jesus covered in ants. The art is being pulled, but the museum is keeping your money. Is this a good use of your dollars?”
As has been reported (and could have easily been found out with the most cursory amount of research by any journalist), this exhibit is entirely privately-funded, as can be discovered by looking at the event’s page on the National Portrait Gallery website. Thanks to Media Matters for more incredible reporting.
So, not only did those who publicly oppose equality successfully censor an openly-gay artist who died from AIDS on World AIDS Day, but they’ve lied to raise wrongful anger against our nation’s greatest museum.We have left some messages for the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, but have not yet heard back. We hope to offer some further information on this soon.