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Aside from the headline, there aren’t really any good jokes to be made about the imbroglio unfolding at the National Portrait Gallery, and after reading Blake Gopnik‘s takedown of the NPG after it caved to pressure to remove a four-minute version of the short film A Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz that is just one piece of a larger exhibit on GLBT themes in American portraiture, there’s really not much to laugh at here.

After damning the NPG for succumbing to pressure from the Catholic League and the right-wing Cybercast News Service over the video’s portrayal of Christ swarmed by ants, Gopnik turns to the grandstanding statement put out yesterday by House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia: “Cantor … has said that taxpayer-funded museums should uphold ‘common standards of decency.’ But such ‘standards’ don’t exist, and shouldn’t, in a pluralist society. My decency is your disgust, and one point of museums, and of contemporary art in general, is to test where lines get drawn and how we might want to rethink them. A great museum is a laboratory where ideas get tested, not a mausoleum full of dead thoughts and bromides.”

More on the uproar over the exhibit “Hide/Seek”:

  • Maura Judkis at TBD has a detailed rundown of the whole affair, including the troubling similarities to then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani‘s attempts to shut down the Brooklyn Museum over an exhibit in 1999. TBD also features an online poll on the NPG. So far 85 percent disagree with the decision to take down A Fire in My Belly.
  • WaPo‘s Jacqueline Trescott goes over the matter too, including a quote from a spokesman for House Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio), which essentially blames artists for the shitty economy.
  • City Paper‘s Kriston Capps is on it as well.
  • And to see how the other half 15 percent thinks, the Moonies’ lone post on the NPG is basically a pull-quote from the original alarmist article and a statement from Cantor’s office.

Elsewhere in our too-hot-to-handle local arts scene, WaPo profiles Paul Morella and his upcoming one-man take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Olney Theatre Center’s Theater Lab space. DCist takes a look back at The Recoys‘ 2003 album Rekoys before The Walkmen—including former Recoys Hamilton Leithauser and Peter Bauer—play the 9:30 Club this Friday.

Happy Hanukkah!