Though the heat is falling on the National Portrait Gallery and its director, Martin Sullivan, at the end of the day the buck stops with Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution G. Wayne Clough. Tyler Green reports that it was Clough who ultimately made the decision to pull David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly—reportedly, over the protests of Sullivan.
Clough’s alleged motivation remains a mystery: Why, after half a day’s worth of complaints from people who by and large had not seen and will not see the show, would Clough yank the video?
One thing is certain: The decision was not made on House Speaker–designate John Boehner‘s (R-Ohio) recognizance. According to a spokesperson, Boehner has not spoken with anyone at the Smithsonian Institution or the National Portrait Gallery or any other affiliated person. Nor has he seen the exhibit, “Hide/Seek,” even though his spokesperson told The Hill he wants the exhibit “cancelled.” House Majority Leader–designate Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has not returned a call for comment.
“This was a decision we were not happy about doing,” a morose Sullivan told City Paper yesterday. “None of us wanted to do this. It was really not about the piece. The Smithsonian has so many priorities and needs. With the new Congress coming in, we have pressures to work with the team.”
Smithsonian Institution chief spokesperson Linda St. Thomas is directing all inquiries to the National Portrait Gallery, which has declined to say what form this pressure has taken. Was the Smithsonian Institution spooked by a couple of comments flacks gave to CNS?