the arts

Andy Warhol Foundation Will Cancel Its $100K Smithsonian Check Over Yanked ‘AIDS Jesus’ Video Work

If the Smithsonian wants to yank David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video work “Fire in My Belly” from its Hide/Seek queer art exhibit because some conservative hate leaders and elected officials didn’t want to see ants crawling over an AIDS-stricken Jesus, then they can do so without Andy Warhol’s money. The late artist’s eponymous foundation will pull its $100,000 donation to the Hide/Seek museum exhibit, along with its regular contributions. Thank goodness dead fags are willing to stand up for what’s right, eh?

And it looks like losing the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation ain’t no thang:

In a letter sent on Monday to the head of the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough, Joel Wachs, the president of the Warhol Foundation, said that the foundation’s board voted unanimously on Friday to demand that the Smithsonian restore the work, an excerpt of a video by the artist David Wojnarowicz, to the exhibition or the foundation would reject any future grant requests.

“I regret that you have put us in this position, but there is no other course we can take,” Mr. Wachs wrote in the letter, which the foundation also sent to news organizations. “For the arts to flourish the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.”

A spokeswoman for the Smithsonian, Linda St. Thomas, said that she did not know if Mr. Clough had seen the letter yet, but “as far as I know we are not putting the video back and we are not changing anything else in the exhibition.”

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  • Kurt

    All the more profound in that Andy Warhol was a devout Ruthenian Catholic and regular communicant. Vicnaja Pam’yat?!

  • Daez

    This is art!?! In a fight between a dead gay artist and a bunch of conservatives, I think the conservatives will definitely win. I wouldn’t be surprised if the museum gets more money for pulling this “artwork” and this reaction.

  • randy

    HIghly unlikely. Conservatives don’t contribute to art period. Certainly not to public art. Sure, a few dollars might come in. But this is a major hit to the smithsonian and its image. That they are digging in will only marginlize them further.

  • Sam

    @Daez: I think it’s interesting how you constantly affirm the right to “freedom of speech” in things like itunes apps, but don’t recognize it in issues like this. The Smithsonian is a government institution and is therefore actually legally bound to enforce the freedom of speech and expression. Special interest groups shouldn’t be able to influence what art is and is not exhibited. And for us to censor potentially (and tacitly) offensive art because “that’s not art” is what happened in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia and is definitely a step down a slippery slope.

  • Daez

    @Sam: The problem is, this is not art. Obscene materials are not considered art by definition. If you would have bothered to review the ap that I defended then you would realize that it isn’t bad enough to be banned.

    The case I would argue is that obscene materials are not art. This, in my opinion is a form of pornography. The last time I checked, you don’t get carded to visit the Smithsonian. I would definitely not want a child to be able to see this exhibit.

  • samthor

    As I recall the religious reicht’s complained that it was unfair to use taxpayer money to fund the Smithsonian exhibit. Now the Warhol Foundation is threatening to cut private funding.
    I guess we’ll see what’s more important to the Smithsonian.

  • Kurt

    @Daez: Actually the Smithsonian has a sign at the entrance of the exhibit as a caution to parents.

    The artist in this case, rather than being obscene or blasphamous, was quite religious. The meaning he gave to his art was the suffering Christ ignored by industrious ants marching in formation. So too do we continue with the routines of our lives, ignoring the suffering around us such as those with AIDS.

  • scott ny'er

    honestly, who’s to say what art is? The thing is the artwork was in there and then they yanked it. So to me that is saying it was art but politics played a role and got it yanked and thus silenced the artist’s voice.

  • Jeffree

    Want to see art that typifies the suffering of Jésus? Look at Spanish paintings from the 18th and 19th century depicting the crucifixion of J-C. No one protests those paintings, *graphic* and explicit as they are. Any comprehensive art museum will have at least a couple.

    Why then should we treat contemporary art any differently?

  • Tallskin


    Excellent news


  • ewe

    Bravo. I saw this woman behind a glass wall collecting money one day with her cross on the outside of her clothing for all to see. Funny that she wears something that she herself cannot see but here we have the same type of people as this woman saying what all of us can observe in museums AGAIN. The woman i saw should not be able to display her psychosis in the workplace.

  • ewe

    I think the ants etc in this exhibit are symbolic of morbidity. The ants are substituted for sheep. The dumb ignorant and reckless masses.

  • reed

    @Daez: please take it from an actual art student (myself) and know you are not an authority on what is art, and neither are a group of wrinkly conservative white men. just because you don’t like it, or find it offensive doesn’t mean it’s not art.

    the message behind in the art is half of the presentation of that message, and this piece had every right to be in the exhibit. the fact that is did get taken out and there’s all of this drama about it, only proves how important this piece of art really is.

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