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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 01/18/2011

Clough pledges to continue "Hide/Seek" conversation

By Jacqueline Trescott

The issues raised by his decision to remove a controversial video from the "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" exhibit will be fully explored in a public forum in April, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough said Monday.

"I know we have to continue a dialogue," said Clough In an interview in his office at the Smithsonian Castle. Some of those issues will include, he said, the differences between publicly funded and private museums in planning exhibitions and the role of the Smithsonian as a national museum. "We are not a local or niche player," he said.

Clough said his office was deluged with e-mails and letters after he decided to remove David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly" from the show. The action was promoted by criticism from Capitol Hill and conservative critics that the depiction of a crucific crawling with ants was in Clough's summery of that view "religious desecration." That was followed by an outcry from all segments of the arts and arts funding world.

He said he continues to support the show at the National Portrait Gallery because of its groundbreaking approach to the topic of gay sexuality in art.

"It wasn't easy. It was painful," said Clough of the decision, saying he had always "supported expression of gay rights."

The show closes Feb. 13.

"This is not over in terms of dialogue," he said.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | January 18, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Museums, Smithsonian  | Tags:  A Fire in My Belly, Smithsonian Institution, Wayne Clough, national portrait gallery  
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