The National Portrait Gallery ceded to pressure from Christian fundamentalists to censor the first exhibition in the U.S. to examine questions of sexual difference and dissidence in the sweeping context of canonical American art.
- The President of the United States
The National Portrait Gallery ushered in a milestone exhibition earlier this season, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture." The show “on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture” is the first in a major U.S. museum to explore GLBTQ perspectives on the production and reception of canonical works by well-known artists from John Singer Sargent to Andy Warhol. Hoping to head off homophobic campaigns launched against this show, the NPG yielded to pressure from a Christian organization to remove one of the pieces on display, a four-minute film by the late AIDS activist and artist David Wojnarowicz.
Incoming House Speaker John Boehner and incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have publicly advocated the cancellation of “Hide/Seek.” A Boehner spokesperson threatened, “Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January.” On Fox news, Congressman Jack Kingston called for elimination of funding to the Smithsonian.
We urge you, our elected representatives, to show your support for this important show, for the arts, for public art institutions such as the Smithsonian, for freedom of cultural expression more generally, and for the LGBTQ communities whose perspectives and contributions are affirmed by initiatives such as "Hide/Seek."
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