Protesters call for resignation of Smithsonian's Clough (audio)
About 30 protesters rallied outside the Smithsonian Castle in a call for the Smithsonian to redress what some have characterized the institution's biggest blunder since controversies over the lavish spending of previous Secretary Lawrence M. Small, and the uproar over the display of the Enola Gay bomber.
The protests,organized by ART+, a New York City-based group that fights censorship and homophobia, drew dozens of artists and freedom of expression advocates to the Mall.
After complaints from conservative politicians and groups that a video in "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," was sacrilegious, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough ordered "A Fire in My Belly," by gay artist David Wojnarowicz, removed. The action was taken, he said, to remove a distraction from the groundbreaking show about gender identity and sexuality, the first for a national museum. The decision was immediately criticized by artists and arts supporters, some of whom held an early protest outside the site of the show at the National Portrait Gallery.
For two months Smithsonian regents, executives, museum directors and staff have been questioning the decision and the extent of the damage it has done to the Smithsonian.
And almost everyone has had an opinion.
In an unusual act on Friday, the board of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden issued an open letter, saying they were "deeply troubled by the precedent" of the November decision.
People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, said Clough had given into the right-wing voices and should step down.
"In making the decision to remove a controversial work of art from one of the Smithsonian's museums, and bungling the institution's response since its removal, Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough has shown that he cannot adequately uphold the mission and the legacy of this American institution," the group's statement said.
The group also praised the Smithsonian and the Portrait Gallery for its decision to present "Hide/Seek" in the first place.
The video "A Fire in My Belly," by the late David Wojnarowicz was created in 1987 to show the pain and sorrow that the AIDS epidemic was creating, especially in the gay community. The segment that the museum showed had a short segment showing ants crawling on a crucifix.
In interviews Clough said he stood by his decision but he probably acted too quickly. He announced that the Smithsonian would have a public forum in the spring to review the episode. People for the American Way called that answer "a woefully inadequate response."
A number of galleries and museums decided to show the video and the Museum of Modern Art, an important repository for film and video, acquired the entire film for its collection.
Trescott describes the scene:
Organizer Bill Dobbs talks with Post reporter Marie Oliver:
Protesters chant for Clough's removal:
| January 31, 2011; 1:33 PM ET
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