Smithsonian Secretary Defends Removing Controversial Art

By Brandon Benavides
|  Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011  |  Updated 1:45 PM EDT
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Smithsonian Secretary Defends Removing Controversial Art

NBCWashington.com

The Museum of Censored Art will show the film "Fire in My Belly" until Feb. 13.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough defended his decision to remove an artist’s video depicting ants crawling on a crucifix from an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.

He said the controversy over the short clip threatened to overshadow its first major exhibition on gay themes in art history and that he acted to preserve the overall exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.”
 
Critics had blasted Clough’s decision as verging on artistic censorship, and members of Congress and a Catholic group had complained that the video was sacrilegious.
 
Now the video is literally steps away from the gallery. The Museum of Censored Art -- a mobile office trailer bearing the sign “Showing the art the Smithsonian won't” -- is situated just outside the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

"The film is here," said Mike Blasenstein, one of the protesters behind the museum. "People might have to walk a few more feet to see it, but they can see the original exhibit as it played for a month in the National Portrait Gallery with zero complaints from the public."

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