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Posted at 7:07 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Paintings Boehner definitely wouldn't want at the National Portrait Gallery

By Alexandra Petri


A video installation in the Hide/Seek exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery (now on display at the Transformers gallery) ignited an uproar by including eleven seconds of footage of ants crawling on a crucifix. The Catholic Anti-Defamation League called it offensive and demanded its removal. So did John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who called the exhibit "an outrageous use of taxpayer money."

Based on this judgment, here are some other pieces of art I assume the National Portrait Gallery will not be able to show:

  • Guernica. Just because.
  • Michelangelo's Last Judgement: One of the angels is making an obscene gesture, and the picture includes an unflattering caricature of the Pope as the prophet Zecharias. Also, what if Michelangelo was gay?
  • Venus de Milo. This is clearly a mockery of the Second Amendment. Also, it might lead to weird fixations among youth.
  • Mona Lisa. Are we actually going to spend taxpayer money to depict a woman who (a) was not the Virgin Mary and (b) has shifty eyes that follow you around the room and could either be smiling or not smiling? This is frankly an affront to St. Franco-Boniface, patron of people with good bone structures, and offensive to happy people who hate to be reminded that somewhere in the world there might be people who are not smiling. Also, Freud thought Leonardo da Vinci was gay.
  • Tower of Babel by Brueghel. This almost gets by because Glenn Beck mentioned it recently, but he mentioned it in a negative context, so, no. Glenn Beck understands how to fix America.
  • Persistence of Memory by Dali. The ants in that painting are preserved in amber now, but later they might want to get out and crawl on a crucifix, and then where would we be?
  • The Japanese Bridge by Monet. This one is fine. Although it could represent reaching across the aisle to people whose perspectives are different, and this seems wrong. Actually, let's nix that as well.
  • Starry Night by Van Gogh. Those aren't stars! They are dabs of paint! Too much paint. In economic times like this, we can't endorse flagrant paint-wasting. This man was also known to waste ears. Also, Van Gogh once shared an apartment with another man.
  • A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Seurat. Those aren't people, those are dots forming people! That could be a metaphor for evolution. Seurat was French. The French are Europeans, which people sometimes mistake for homosexuals, at least on the subway.
  • The Pieta. This depicts Jesus frozen in marble, where it is possible for ants or other insects to crawl on him, and tourists could touch him if they got past the motion sensor. And what if those tourists were gay?

This request has nothing to do with the fact that the rest of the exhibit is an examination of "difference and desire" in American portraiture. Nope.

By Alexandra Petri  | December 3, 2010; 7:07 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Epic Failures, Petri, Top Lists, Worst Things Ever  | Tags:  America, National Portrait Gallery, oops  
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Jesus, Alex! Republicans have always had ants in their pants over art. For example, since 1933 the bare-breasted “Spirit of Justice” statue has stood in the Justice Department building for all to see.

Reagan’s attorney general, Ed Meese, famously stood in front of the statue’s bare breast when he delivered a speech condemning pornography.

After a similar mishap, Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, decreed that the statue be hidden, and issued an order to “Pay no attention to that boob behind the curtain.”

Fortunately, under the Democrats, she has once again busted out in all her glory.
It was such a pleasure to take your tour of famous artworks. Your mention of “Starry Night” made me think of one of my favorite songs: “Vincent”, a tribute to Van Gogh:

Don McLean version (with Van Gogh paintings video)

Josh Groban live version (As good as this song will ever sound)

Posted by: divtune | December 3, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

The right to bare arms, seriously?

Posted by: Potter2 | December 4, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah it's another liberal discussion about "censorship". Sorry but art is not a jar of urine or ants crawling on a crucifix and that's coming from someone who is not religious. Howl away folks but anyone with any taste would not look twice at what got removed. If you want some more "art" we have a large anthill in our backyard your welcome to come over and stare at it for a few hours. I'll serve drinks. Cheers!

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | December 4, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

^^ lol

Posted by: Potter2 | December 4, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The descriptions I have read regarding this exhibit are disgusting. Please stop pushing this "gay is great" drivel. If everyone were gay, human civilization would be gone in several generations. Sorry if you don't like the reality of nature.

Posted by: BadNews | December 4, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

MY proposed new 1st Amendment

Congress shall make no law conflicting with MY religion, or prohibiting MY free exercise thereof; or abridging MY freedom of speech, or of MY press; or MY right peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of MY grievances. YOU are on your own.

Posted by: divtune | December 4, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

If they will allow my picture of the prophet mohammed covered in human excrement to be put up next to the Jesus painting than I am ok w/ it. Didnt think so.....

Posted by: j751 | December 4, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

If you think that anyone has the right to depict Christ the way they wish, even disrespectfully, then I think that Christians also have the right to express their displeasure. Freedom of expression should go both ways... Beyond that, however, what do the examples in your article have in common with the subject matter?

Posted by: HaveItYourWay | December 4, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Alexandra Petri = Snarky dishonesty.

This is a classic example of what is wrong with our society and this newspaper.

This individual attempting to compare time tested works of art, to this trash that is only there to offend and PUSH A POLITICAL AGENDA.

If it was a Crescent moon, she would be rambling about how disgusting the 'conservative' artist is. (I have no idea if the artist is or is not a conservative, but that would not stop the left and Gay lobby from putting the lie out there).

Posted by: arioch666 | December 4, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it interesting that Eric Cantor (who is Jewish) also condemns the use of the tax payer funded museum for this political grand standing?....Decency and respect has nothing to do with ones religious persuasion.

Mr. Cantor, by simply expressing his opinion on this topic, has said volumes for common sense decency.

Posted by: arioch666 | December 4, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Nasty pictures of Obama are rightfully banned as they are always racist. And of course, no picture of Mohamed is ever appropriate.

Posted by: jy151310 | December 4, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Anyone has the right to create whatever trash or art that he or she would like to create. However, they don't have the right for me to pay for displaying this "art".

Posted by: concernedcitizen3 | December 4, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Hang a picture of Mohammad with ants crawling on him.

Be brave!

Take a real stand for freedom of expression!

Ah, better to insult people and religons you know won't fight back.

Posted by: drjcarlucci | December 4, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who knew anything about art history would not dispute that this video is art. Only someone who does has never heard of Dada or Surrealism would think ants on a crucifix is not art. Taken out of context (ants crawling on crucifix ) someone ignorant about art would find it hard to understand and mock it but anyone with an elementary understanding of art and art history would not dispute it being art. Whether it is good art or bad is another question but it is indisputable art.
Wish I could see the looks on their faces if they saw Duchamp's Fountain or Bunuel depiction of the Marquis de Sade in L Age D'or

Posted by: exbrown | December 4, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

If the people who complained about this piece would also declare their opposition to representations of the prophet Mohammed, then I could be persuaded that they are not mere hypocrites.

But not necessarily persuaded.

The public museums carry thousands of works glorifying Jesus of Nazareth, representing him as the annointed one, the mesiah, the son of God. Are they not to be able to display anything that questions how we receive the, how we treat the Christ on the Cross? These are people of weak faith, no better than those who riot at the mere mention of a drawing of Mohammed.

Posted by: j3hess | December 4, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

As a devout Republican, I say rest assured that after we seize control of the government in 2012, and have eliminated the capital gains tax, the estate (death) tax, and the tax on incomes over one million dollars, the National Gallery will be shut down as an elitist waste of taxpayer money and the so-called "art" sold off to the private collections of our true constituents, the top 1/10th of 1 percent who rightfully own America anyway. The vast majority of the American public is perfectly satisfied with reproductions of Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade paintings available at Walmart for a few dollars.

Posted by: senbilboredux | December 4, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

The Post can run all the silly articles it wants on the National Portrait Gallery fiasco, and can publish breathless reviews from its (duh) obviously gay reviewer about the joys of gay sex and culture.

Most of the public will still think the show is a bunch of complete garbage. At least half of the public will probably be offended as well.

But it's art, right? Well, maybe, maybe not.

But it's a free country, right? Yep, and people should be free to decide whether or not to publicly fund advertisements of the gay lifestyle.

Art takes us into new frontiers, right? This is a frontier where something over three-fourths of the country does not want to go.

Make a book out of the exhibit and sell it, or use private funds and a private venue to show it, and no one will care.

This is a gross misuse of public funds.

Posted by: tacheronb | December 4, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

This from a newspaper that refuses to print even a comic strip picture of Mohamed.

Posted by: Delongl | December 4, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

exbrown wrote: Wish I could see the looks on their faces if they saw Duchamp's Fountain or Bunuel depiction of the Marquis de Sade in L Age D'or
What's artistic about a urinal and scalps flapping in the wind on a cross? I have to wonder at someone enlightened enough to advertise these two pieces as art. This is the Howard Stern's of art. Crude, loud, and annoying. No more no less. Then you scream when art funding gets cut in school. Gee wonder why?

Better yet why not shoot some video of someone urinating on a Koran. Make sure you get a good tight shot of the face. Announce your "art" to the world and the location of your exhibit. Then let's see how long you survive to read your reviews. Some times there is a useful purpose for the "religion of peace".

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | December 4, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Desertdiva1 ~ hey, we're Republicans. We are supposed to keep large mounds of BiTiNG RED ARMY ANTS in our backyards.

Then, when Democrats come lurking around we can STAKE THEM OUT!

Yes, Lub Dem Ants!

Posted by: muawiyah | December 4, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Alexandra-your column is neither funny nor particularly thoughtful. Just kind of childish.

Definitely compost.

Posted by: Towson_Tiger | December 4, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that the Hide/Seek Exhibit was censored due to intolerance. Art reflects people so it can definitely be controversial, like other forms of art: music and movies.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | December 4, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

hahaha!!! so very true!!!

thanks for a good laugh

Posted by: jstiver | December 6, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

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