Thursday, January 13, 2011

MoMA Purchases Censored Wojnarowicz

For those of you following the recent scandal at the Smithsonian Museum's National Portrait Gallery of the David Wojnarowicz piece "A Fire in My Belly", that was removed/censored from their exhibition Hide/Seek- Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, there is welcome news as reported by the NY Times.  MoMA has purchased both the artist's cut (7 min) and the full version (13 min).  While the video has been shown at a number of locations Transformer gallery in D.C. and at the New Museum in New York, the MoMA is the first to announce the purchase of the work.

From the Times article written by Kate Taylor, "Mr. Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, made the video in the late 1980s in response to the AIDS crisis. It was included in a show at the National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, examining gay themes in American portraiture but was removed after it was attacked by Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, and several Republican congressmen who objected to an image in the video of ants crawling on a crucifix.

The video’s removal has in turn led to an outcry from the art world. The curators of the show have been sharply critical of the decision to remove the video, which was made by the Smithsonian’s top executive, G. Wayne Clough. An artist, AA Bronson, has asked for his own piece to be removed from the show in protest, and on Monday his lawyer sent a letter to Mr. Clough and the director of the National Portrait Gallery, Martin E. Sullivan, threatening legal action if the museum does not comply."

Here is the full version of the video:

As with all controversies surrounding art, this piece, which in its own right is excellent, will now be reduced to 'the video that caused a scandal'.  Remember Chris Ofili's, The Holy Virgin Mary painting from the Saatchi exhibition titled Sensation at the Brooklyn Museum in late '99 to early '00 that caused quite a stir?  The scandal reached national prominence when the then Mayor Giuliani jumped on the band wagon to say what an outrage it was that there was elephant dung on an image of the Virgin Mary and that city funding of the museum should be halted.  Because of the controversy, that piece is now relegated to being known now as 'an art scandal piece' and not a fine work of art.

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