- Bethany BentleyPublic Affairs Specialist, National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery: Don't Cave In to Fox News and Censor LGBT Art Exhibit
Art is supposed to challenge us, make us pause for a few moments, push us to think in new and creative ways, and open our minds in new and exciting ways.
Perhaps someone might want to remind the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery of the concept. Because the Gallery has decided to censor part of an exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which addresses LGBT identity in the arts. And the reason they're censoring it?
Because some reporter with a right-wing social conservative Web site wrote a piece suggesting that the exhibit was blasphemous, and that the Smithsonian was using taxpayers' money to fund something promoting the radical homosexual agenda. And though both of those sentiments couldn't be farther from the truth, the Smithsonian buckled and the National Portrait Gallery has removed an exhibit by artist David Wojnarowicz.
So much for art being expected to challenge us and think in new and inventive ways.
Moreover, now two Congressmen -- Rep. John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor -- are threatening to review the funding for the National Portrait Gallery because of this exhibit. Really? A war in Afghanistan, escalated violence between North and South Korea, epic unemployment ... and these two Congress leaders want to focus on an LGBT art exhibit?
Send the Smithsonian a message that they shouldn't cave in to the likes of Fox News, or the anti-gay viewpoints of a few politicians. This is an exhibit intended to highlight the work of LGBT artists, and tell the stories of artists who make up some of the greatest of the past two centuries, and not an exhibit that demeans religion.
- Public Affairs Specialist, National Portrait Gallery
I recently became aware that the National Portrait Gallery removed a four-minute video portrait from an exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which addresses LGBT identity in the arts. The piece removed, A Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz, told the story of an AIDS victim, reflecting the suffering and persecution that many AIDS patients faced in the 1980s.
What troubles me about this move is that it comes in the wake of a news article by a right-wing Web site, CNSNews, which is an un-objective, socially conservative publication that promotes a certain religious agenda. Moreover, it comes in the wake of two prominent social conservatives -- Rep. John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor -- threatening to review the National Portrait Gallery's funding because of this exhibit. They want the show pulled completely.
But there's nothing wrong with the Hide/Seek exhibit, and the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian should stand by its decision to highlight the work of LGBT and straight artists in this show.
I urge you to stand up for this show, and not cave in to this agenda by the religious right. Art is meant to challenge us, and make us think. That's the purpose of this show, and removing pieces of art from it, or caving in to demands to cancel it, is an abdication of the Smithsonian's and the National Portrait Gallery's duty as an epicenter of the art world.
Thanks for your time.
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