Smithsonian censorship saga: the next chapter

The Smithsonian censorship saga just won't go away...Jim Hedges, a hedge-fund specialist and art aficionado, recently wrote to Martin Sullivan, director of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, DC, requesting that his loaned work Untitled, Self-Portrait by Jack Pierson be removed from the Hide/Seek NPG exhibition "until such time as the David Wojnarowicz video is reinstated in its full unedited version" (Wojnarowicz's piece, A Fire in My Belly, shows a crucifix covered with ants; it was withdrawn following protests by a group of Republican congressmen and the Catholic League). Hedges has now received a reply from Sullivan which he has kindly posted on his Facebook wall. In the letter, Sullivan states that: "At the NPG, we sympathize with your objection. Co-curators David Ward and Jonathan Katz have publicly stated their opposition to the removal of the video, and the show continues to attract record crowds while bringing attention to a crucial theme that other museums have not yet highlighted. Secretary Wayne Clough and the Smithsonian Regents committed to keeping the exhibition up for its full run without further censorship, and we appreciate their firm stand on that question." Sullivan intriguingly adds: "Katz argues that those who would be most punished if additional works are withdrawn from the exhibit are neither the fringe political/religious activists nor even the Smithsonian, but the audiences who lose access to art. In his words, 'Why fight censorship with more censorship? Shouldn't we press for real debate and dialogue instead?'

For this reason, I hope you'll reconsider the withdrawal of Pierson's Untitled, Self-Portrait." Watch this space.

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11 Jan 11
4:33 CET


What a cop-out by the Smithsonian. These curators should be ashamed of themselves for making excuses. As soon as you give those sanctimonious art police an inch, they will begin the book burnings and Degenerate Art confiscations in earnest. And good for Mr. Pierson. He at least has integrity, which is more than the Smithsonian can say. Obviously nothing has been learned since the days of Jesse Helms.

10 Jan 11
14:33 CET


Suspect this Hedge fund fellow sees an easy way to give his work greater prominence--and value. Simply that.

10 Jan 11
14:33 CET


I find it funny that if they hadn't pulled the crappy self masturbation video, it wouldn't have made much of a ruckus anyway. As from what I've seen at museums, most people spend less than 5 seconds looking at video work. So his work has actually been seen more because of this than otherwise. I agree that this boring "shock art" shouldn't be in a museum, but in a porn theater.

7 Jan 11
18:8 CET


I have mixed feelings about the artists pulling their work. On one side, I agree with them. However, on the other side, I feel that if they protest the Hide/Seek exhibit, they are giving the people who want the exhibit removed exactly what they want.

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