The AAMC is very concerned about the removal of David Wojnarowicz's video A Fire in my Belly from the National Portrait Gallery’s current exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. One of the great powers of art is its ability to foster both nuanced and heartfelt discussions about serious cultural issues. It is inherent to the nature of such discussions that they elicit strong, and often conflicting, feelings. It is crucial that museums and curators feel free to address such issues and to take intellectual, political, and aesthetic risks without fear of retribution (political, financial, or other). We wish to express our strong support for the goals of the exhibition, for the National Portrait Gallery’s bold decision to mount the exhibition in the first place, and for their decision to keep the exhibition on view in the face of strong political pressure to do otherwise.
There is an contemporary art exhibit at my gallery right now called "Tomboy" about lesbian internal and external identity issues. We are a small private institution and I am very happy that visitors and students can engage with art by "other" genders. While leading gallery talks/tours with students I brought up this Smithsonian debacle in discussion and the students were all bewildered at the piece being removed from "Hide/Seek" exhibit. While a frustrating situation, it has allowed for much-needed discussions to be had around the country, from curators to museum and gallery visitors.