By Bob Hicks
We are the land of the free, except, of course, when we aren’t. Fortunately, when we aren’t, we are still sometimes the home of the brave — or at least, of the politically canny.
In the latest turn in the David Wojnarowicz flap, the Associated Press reports that the Andy Warhol Foundation has given an ultimatum to the Smithsonian Institution and its National Portrait Gallery: restore Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly to the gallery’s exhibit Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, from which it was removed after complaints from the Catholic League and U.S. Rep. John Boehner, or say bye-bye to any future Warhol checks.
We’re not talking fifty bucks and a bag of popcorn. The Warhol Foundation has given $375,000 to Smithsonian museums in the past three years, including $100,000 for Hide/Seek, a show that explores the impact of sexual orientation on art. So far the Smithsonian hasn’t blinked. We’ll miss the money, it’s essentially said, but we won’t be bullied into changing our minds. That’s a neat spin, invoking principle and bravery to defend an act that was itself a craven and expedient caving-in to political pressure. The whole tawdry affair makes Wojnarowicz’s lips-sewn-together self-portrait shown here seem disturbingly prescient. Speak no evil, indeed.