Organizers reported five hundred New Yorkers, furious at the Smithsonian Institution’s removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video, “A Fire in My Belly,” from the National Portrait Gallery’s current acclaimed “Hide/Seek” exhibition in Washington D.C., marched up Fifth Ave. from the Metropolitan Museum today to the Smithsonian’s NYC outpost, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, to express their outrage and to demand that the video be restored to the exhibit immediately.
“Hide/Seek” is a groundbreaking major museum show which identifies important, mainstream art of the last 100 years as produced by gay and lesbian artists; it explores gender as well as gay and lesbian themes. The show is under attack by the Catholic League and conservative Republican legislators, including Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor. In response to these right-wing attacks, Smithsonian Director G. Wayne Clough ordered the immediate removal of the Wojnarowicz video from the exhibit. Clough’s action in late November came a month into the show’s run.
Scores of galleries and museums around the world are displaying the video in protest of the Smithsonian’s capitulation to bigotry. Artist AA Bronson has demanded the removal of his photograph “Felix, June 5, 1994,” depicting his lover at his death from AIDS, from the “Hide/Seek” show. The Andy Warhol Foundation and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation have promised to cease any future donations to the Smithsonian unless the Wojnarowicz video is restored to “Hide/Seek.” The Calder Foundation has withdrawn a piece from an upcoming Calder show at the Smithsonian and photographer Michael Katakis has asked for the return of a portrait of artist Maya Lin that he donated to the museum 20 years ago.
Sunday’s protest march, organized by ART+ (“art positive”), a new activist group which includes many members of New York’s large art community, takes the message to the doorstep of the Smithsonian in New York–restore the “Hide/Seek” exhibit to its original wholeness by remounting the Wojnarowicz video.