Smithsonian Pulls Piece from Landmark LGBT Exhibit

Fire in My Belly de David Wojnarowicz, Diamanda Galas
Uploaded by altimsah. – Independent web videos.

Yesterday, the National Portrait Gallery pulled a video installation from the exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” following an uproar from conservative groups. The four-minute video, “A Fire in My Belly” by late artist David Wojnarowicz, depicts ants crawling over Jesus Christ, symbolizing the pain suffered by AIDS victims.

Hide/Seek marks the first major museum survey to explore sexual identity and LGBT themes in American portraiture, and features pieces by Andy Warhol, Annie Leibowitz and Jasper Johns. Although the exhibit has been in place since Oct. 30, it only drew criticism following the publication of an article on Monday by conservative news site The article notes that the “Christmas-season exhibit” has used federal funds to display “naked brothers kissing, genitalia, and Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts.” The Smithsonian does receive roughly 70 percent of its funding from the federal government, though funds for specific exhibits — including this one — are raised privately.

In the maelstrom that followed, a National Portrait Gallery spokeswoman said the museum and other Smithsonian museums have been flooded with calls, with people contacting “any e-mail address they could find.” Prior to the article, she said no complaints had been received.

Museum director Martin Sullivan released a statement yesterday about the decision to pull the piece, a portion of which is as follows:

“I regret that some reports about the exhibit have created an impression that the video is intentionally sacrilegious. In fact, the artist’s intention was to depict the suffering of an AIDS victim. It was not the museum’s intention to offend. We are removing the video today.

The museum’s statement at the exhibition’s entrance, “This exhibition contains mature themes,” will remain in place.”

It only takes a quick glance at the comments on CNS to see what type of feedback the Smithsonian was receiving yesterday. But the criticism hasn’t been restricted to ordinary CNS readers. The Hill reports that House Speaker-designate Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have called for the exhibit to be shuttered, with Cantor calling the exhibit “an outrageous use of taxpayer money.”

Of course, the larger question here for the Smithsonian is whether their funding is at risk. TBD notes that Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has called for the Smithsonian’s budget to be reviewed and their books audited. TBD does a great job of taking a look back on whether past threats over controversial pieces have resulted in actual budget cuts for museums.

Sullivan has stated that the exhibit will remain open as planned through February 13.

UPDATE: In protest of the National Portrait Gallery’s decision, Transformer Gallery will be showing “A Fire in My Belly” on a continuous 24-hour loop. The gallery is also organizing a silent walk to the museum at 5:30 p.m.

Rebecca Gross

Raised in nearby MoCo, Rebecca happily jumped the District line in 2005. When not stuck behind a computer, she can be found exploring the city’s many wonders, usually with her trusty canine sidekick Jasper Jones. Questions, comments, concerns? Email her at RebeccaGross (at)

152 thoughts on “Smithsonian Pulls Piece from Landmark LGBT Exhibit

  1. “You may be right that Islam is treated with more care than Christianity.”

    And the Sun “might” rise in the East tomorrow.

  2. To those defending this pathetic excuse for art can you tell me why we haven’t seen the cartoons of Mohammed in the Smithsonian. I’m thinking because the curators didn’t want to be killed for their expression like that Dutch cartoonist. Get it…a cartoonist is killed for drawing a cartoon!? If you liberals and atheists want religion out of government that also means the government should get out of supporting any display or facility that shows anything related to religion. If a creche or the ten commandments on a tablet are taboo then everything and anything that contains a religious connotation should be barred from any entity that receives gov’t support. Or that entity can voluntarily refuse any further gov’t funding — forever.

  3. Who cares? There is a LGBT club (among other related activities) in most US high schools today. The US has no morals anymore. Unless you consider blatant feminism and complete lack of common sense morals. Enjoy the future fools….

  4. Pingback: Would Smithsonian Museum Show a Video of Ant-Covered Mohammed?

  5. LOL the same idiots that scream that a baby Jesus on a town hall lawn supported by tax dollars can’t be displayed because the government is endorsing religion have no problem with the mocking of Jesus in a Museum suported with tax dollars.

  6. Its ok to have an opinion in this Country as long as your not a Christian. Sad future for this Nation. I’ll stick to loving my God with all my heart, soul and might. Lived 30 years without him & I would never go back to life without him.

  7. The Seattle cartoonist whose artwork sparked the controversial “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!” has gone into hiding at the advice of the FBI after being targeted by a radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, according to the newspaper that published her comics.

    Molly Norris has moved and changed her name.

    Artists don’t worry about Christians cutting off their heads if they mock Jesus. Keep telling yourself all religions are the same.

  8. The next time you meet a homosexual you can thank them for bringing HIV-AIDS to America during the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. A depiction of ant’s crawling on homosexual would have been appropriate in light of the history of HIV-AIDS in America.

  9. I’m announcing that I’m planning on creating a new exciting art exhibit.

    It’s going to show various images of a nude Mohammed covered in maggots. Next to Mohammed will be a glass top coffee table, with a solar powered crescent-shaped vibrator vibrating all across the top the table. A light will be shining on the solar panel at all times.

    A copy of the Koran will be visible underneath the table through the glass top.

    It’s a metaphor for the struggle of women and the World’s poor.

    What are my chances of getting it exhibited anywhere in America? In the world?

    Any takers? Publicity will not be a problem.

  10. This isn’t a freedom of speech issue you morons. The gov’t isn’t shutting down the exhibit. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if Christ is depicted in this way—because it’s such a tired and cowardly cliche to insult Christianity. And yes, they are cowards for the very reason Ava listed (WWMD?) but we know US artists will never have the balls the Danish cartoonists had (except for the South Park guys). That said, yes it’s offensive, but you ant-Christ supporters should be more angry at the SMITHSONIAN for pulling it. Why are THEY so weak? Because they want government funding, that’s why. Therefore, your precious ant-Christ artist is the “sacrificial lamb” to the greedy SMITHSONIAN can get their hands on the $$$$. A privately owned gallery could have just given the finger to all the Christians, right? Run the exhibit excited about all the free publicity?

  11. if the christian community had not been under attack for so long this wouldn’t be an issue. It would have been a boycott and a few statements from Pat Robertson or somebody. The christian community has been bending over backwards for a long time, watching their culture degrade. What you have to expect is that if you poke at someone long enough your gonna get punched. What you liberals need to learn is that us religious right wingers are the majority. If you keep poking at our culture while we have been slowly letting yours co-mingle with ours we will fight back. I don’t want to see this nation slam hard right, but that is what is about to happen. Read your history books. This is not the first time it’s happened.

  12. I wonder how well this type of art would be tolerated in other certain countries. You don’t even see this spew in christian hating or anti jew countries. We all have the freedom of speech true. Govt funding is all screwed up true. What you do in your free time is your business and not mine. so say what you wanna say. I served this country so you could. You liberals like to scream racist, religious or political intolerance, or hate every time we speak up, or disagree. We are getting tired of it. Get ready to watch it come back around. We see your tricks and are educating our friends and family. I do not feel bad for you and you will get nothing more from me. Meet you again at the polls 2012. We are taking this country back.

  13. After reading Tiffany Bridge’s comments concerning the supposed feigned outrage of Christians being offended, I think possibly the most “specious” claim I’ve read is her announcement, and always first prefaced as defense, “I’m a Christian” to disarm. Really? If so, you’re a woefully confused one.

    Perhaps Ms. Bridges you can explain the apparent conflict of Christ’s decay, being the resurrection and the story of the cross is the antithesis of decay. If you can’t see deviancy is this junk euphemistically referred to as “art”, I not only question your sincerity, but sanity.

    So let’s flip the script and put the very valid comparison of Muslims aside for a minute, which is not specious or duplicitous in the least.

    Let’s say some Christian, in his or her personal tirade against what he perceived as perversion, decided to paint the faces of well known homosexuals, decayed and residing in hell. While the exhibit is privately funded, his request is to have exhibit in the very public Smithsonian, under the guise of “Fire in the Rectum.”

    Something tells me you’d be first in line screaming at the offense and demanding the exhibit be removed.

  14. The Avant-garde so-called art community will never get it. Taxpayers will ALWAYS get enraged when it learns how its hard earned tax dollars are used to prop up fringe expression that has no financially self-sustaining audience of its own.

    By definition, the publicly funded arts must steer toward conventionally accepted norms of propriety. Those people wishing to push the limits of expression, those wishing to make average people uncomfortable, those looking to offend MUST NOT the public to pay for it against their will.

    Of course, the truth is, without coerced financing from the unwilling, these exhibits would not exist, because there is no viable market for it.

  15. If an artist has to resort to desecrating an image of Jesus to make a point, then they can’t be that artistically literate.

    His point of suffering from aids is completely lost. He has failed to evoke sympathy, and has only evoked disgust.

    What genius deemed this as “creative”? The museum director’s qualifications are clearly questionable. This is not art. It’s a feeble attempt at making “art.”

  16. I just watched the video with the article. Without taking any religious implications into account, this was not worth the time it took to watch it. It surely doesn’t promote the cause of those with AIDS.

  17. Doesn’t really bother me but I am willing to bet that the same people that are for this would be dead set against the same art depicting Mohammad.. My point is that it seems OK to hate on Christians but everyone else is taboo.

  18. when our tax $$$ goes toward supporting this sort of tripe, ESPECIALLY when we are toying with $$$ we do not have, i think of so many other similar incidents.

    fund it yourself. portray it yourself. don’t ask me and others like me to contribute to your social agenda.

    the smithsonian should be ashamed, but i’m sure they could give a flip about doing anything other than pleasing left wing darlings.

  19. The liberal elites in the media and at the museums would never do anything, exhibit anything, or say anything that might offend muslims. The liberal elites lay awake at night worrying about the islamic fundamentalists that might kidnap their staff members, kidnap their reporters, chop off their employees heads, blow up their buildings, or kill their family members. The liberal elites have destroyed America. The Smithsonian exhibit is just one more example of their filth, degeneracy, hate filled speech, bigotry, and anti-Christian held positions. Funny how if liberals don’t intend to harm or offend, then in their minds their is no harm. Yet liberals freely and often criticize conservatives of offending others regardless of the intent of conservatives comments. It must be fun being a hypocrite. The apologists claim that the money for the exhibit was all privately raised. Wasn’t the exhibit held in a public building? I guess that the brilliant reporter failed to ask the appropriate follow-up questions. More deliberate ignorance displayed by the liberal elite media. They no longer are able to hide. They will all be exposed as the perverts, degnerates, and corrupt and dishonest people that they are.

  20. The inevitable result of government support for the arts…totally unfair, not subject to arts market forces, who decides what art gets hung or paid for…it’s just blatantly elitist and one ever gave $1 for my artistic endeavors…except the public..STOP PUBLIC FUNDING FOR THE ARTS (THAT ART GOVERNMENT CHOOSES OR FUNDS)… Artists of the US Unite and stop being welfare cases….this is not a liberal or conservative is an issue of government control of the arts through $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$….If your organization or artwork fails….so be it…tough…

  21. Just another move by B. Hussein Obama to prop up his Muslim faith by permitting denegration of any other faith. His politics are the same. Wonder if he will have his Mao Christmas ornament on the WH tree this year? Probably will. Maybe he’ll add some of his other favorites like Marx.

  22. I’m amazed at all the so-called “artists” that have to pull Christianity into their themes in a degrading way. “Piss-Christ”, dung on the Madonna, etc….

    If it’s all just religious based, why not Muhammed?? Where are those artists depicting him in this manner? The Islamic world does nothing to help prevent aids or the gay rights movement, on the contrary, kills all homosexual/gay people. But….only crickets from that community on the second largest religion in the world.

    So…why not have Muhammed in any exhibits?
    Could it be you’re just chicken-sh”t hypocrites?

    Yeah, I think that’s the answer.

  23. It’s a shame they pulled this work. The work depicted suffering of AIDS victims. It didn’t depict Jesus as gay, it didn’t depict Jesus as the cause. It depicted SUFFERING. It did not depict AIDS sufferers as “Saviors.” I think it depicted Jesus understanding for those who suffer regardless. Those conservatives should be embarassed that they think that they have a sole attachment to Jesus. I certainly hope they aren’t stupid (yes I said stupid) enough to believe that Jesus only loves them and empathizes and sympothizes with them.

  24. I am not a “religious nut” as I am not a fan of organized religion and don’t even go to church – but I was raised as a Christian and pretty much live by the teachings, which are good principles to live by. Love your fellow man, forgive your enemies, etc… Peace and love, my friends, are not a bad combination.

    Given the opportunity to vote on this topic, I don’t want my tax dollars (of which I pay a considerable amount) funding this type of garbage in the name of art. I watched the video on this link, and to call this stuff “art” is an extreme stretch; one that makes me question the quality and motives of the curator who would display it.

    But I guess you can call anything “art” that you want to… If I took a dump on an open Koran, laid it on a butchered hog and photographed it, I could call it art. But I wouldn’t do it because it is tasteless and because it would offend many people needlessly with no cultural benefit or redeeming value.

    What offends me more than anything about this display (particularly because it is at a national institution that supposedly reflects the best of America) is that it is a perfect example of the destructive double standard prevalent in America today. Do something that is offensive to a Christian, a white male, a heterosexual, or any other conservative group and that’s OK – people don’t want to hear the outrage of the conservatives. But do the same thing targeting a Muslim, an African American, an LGBT, or any fringe group you care to name, and the media (as well as those “offended” parties) react with outrage that most would consider justifiable. Then comes talk of “hate” speech, crimes, etc. and the whole thing gets magnified a hundred times.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but people today probably don’t even understand the value of that statement. I would suggest that we try to steer the world away from the “shock and offend” path we’re on, and back toward a “golden rule” objective. Life is tough enough as it is without all the additional aggravation. Can’t we all just get along?

  25. Probably getting into this late, but here is a christian liberatarian view. If taxes are used then the art shouldn’t offend.

  26. This “artist” or any other would have the guts to place Muhammed in such a light. They’re all cowards. That goes for every other Christian basher who gets on tv making Jesus jokes. They know they Christians don’t come after people looping heads off, so they think they’re safe. Gutless wonders.

  27. Try portraying a picture of Muhammed with ants crawling out of his belly and see what happens.

  28. I’m frankly tired of people think it’s ok to trash persons faith and call it art, that is my free speech opinion. It you want to do this, do it on your own dime, don’t expect the taxpayers to dole out money for this garbage. I’m not paying for it. Also, if this were Mohammad covered in ants, you know we’d be attacked in some way and pay for it with our lives. I protect your right to free speech, but I’m not going to pay for it with my taxes.

  29. This video is extremely disturbing and bastardizes Christianity. If the artist was depicting anything evil, he succeeded in producing an exquisite evil attack on a person’s faith. This was the most disturbing video I’ve ever seen regarding attacks on Christianity. I didn’t see any AIDS victims here, just a sick artist trashing a faith. Again, if this was Muhammad, we’d really be paying for it.

  30. Oh Tex, whatever that “something” is that tells you what my reaction would be is wrong, but feel free to continue making baseless assumptions about strangers on the Internet. And silly me for thinking that when Jesus explicitly said that the way we treat the sick and the downtrodden is the way we treat him, he *meant it*, and when he condemned those who spent more time drawing a hedge around the Law and contemplating their own righteousness than lifting up the sick and the downtrodden, he *meant that too*. In fact, I’d argue that the use of a crucifix to communicate the suffering of the sick and marginalized is more theologically correct than pretty much any of the outrage about it. Don’t forget, while you are complaining about the way an artist who died an excruciating, outcast’s death has offended the American religious establishment, that Jesus suffered an excruciating, outcast’s death for offending the religious establishment of his own culture.

    And it continues to be ridiculous to rhetorically ask why the artist didn’t use Muslim imagery. Art exists in a cultural context, and critiques the culture it’s part of. There certainly are artists using Islamic imagery to provoke a reaction- they are part of Islam-dominant cultures.

    It’s reasonable to argue that it’s not particularly good or effective art- that’s a defensible position, and reasonable adults can disagree. And the question of public funding of the arts is a thorny issue, and worthy of debate as well; there are many thoughtful and nuanced positions to take. But all the complaining that crucifix + ants = ASSAULT ON CHRISTIANITY!!!! is just shrieking that engages with neither the artistic questions nor the policy questions involved.

  31. CB Says: “The hatred posted on here is ridiculous.”

    You are confusing what is disgust of filth at the Smithsonian with hate.

    CB Says: “This exhibit was PRIVATELY FUNDED and if you don’t like what’s in it then DON’T GO IN IT.”

    The Smithsonian wouldn’t exist without taxpayer funds. Of course I won’t go. I just have to pay to keep their doors open regardless.

    CB Says: “It’s pretty sad that I sometimes feel embarrassed to say that I was raised a Christian, because of the intense hatred that so many Christians spew.”

    What is sad is that you are obsessed with making false ‘hate’ accusations.

    CB Says: “Remember Sunday school when you were taught to “love thy neighbor” and “turn the other cheek”?”

    How about if I pray for you to understand how preposterous and awful this video is? My God help you discover who Jesus is.

    CB Says: “We expect our children to do these things, and yet the majority of us completely forget them as soon as we see something we don’t like.”

    II expect my children to stand up to evil and pray for their enemy.

    CB Says: “Absolutely nothing about the video was meant to be offensive or to attack any religion”

    How do you know that it wasn’t meant to get a reaction knowingly and willingly?

    CB Says: “If you are so lacking in confidence in your own beliefs that you find offense in art that was not malicious in any way, then you need to reevaluate your opinions rather than attack others’.”

    As an artist and sculptor I have confidence that I know what is aesthetically pleasing and what is just plain crap. You don’t seem to know the difference between good and evil, moral from immoral, fact from fiction, friend from foe, or art from garbage. It’s you who is lacking of principles and character, not I.

    CB Says: “I personally am looking forward to seeing that exhibit as soon as I get the chance.”

    You seem to have an affection for the hideous and repulsive.

    CB Says: “All the haters on here would probably also benefit from visiting it.”

    There is no redeeming value to benefit from this exhibit, none, nada, zip, zilch, nothing. If one would like to gag, go see the how the taxpayer funded Smithsonian exhibits the vile, heinous and abominable at Christmas. Hate has nothing to do with it. It’s as if you believe repeating a lie over and over constitutes fact when it does not. How preposterous.

  32. Whoever approved this garbage for display in the first place should be fired from the Smithsonian. In a society where ‘Christmas’ has somehow become offensive, it’s shameful that such filth would even see the light of day.

  33. Pingback: Smithsonian Removing Bug Christ, Keeping Kissing Brothers | Intolerant Fox

  34. I have to laugh at how “brave” these courageous gay artists when it comes to dessicrating Christian symbols… but when it comes to Islam and their Prophet… whose teaching against homosexuals makes Christian teaching look like a therapy session.. they are BIG COWARDS!

  35. Soon I will take a dump in 2 jars and call it “Ode to Sasha and Malia Obama”.

    I will call it art, and you will be forced to apperciate it.

  36. The only part of me particularly offended is my aesthetic sensibility. The video is crap.

  37. # Kev Says:

    December 2nd, 2010 at 8:35 am
    Those conservatives should be embarassed that they think that they have a sole attachment to Jesus. I certainly hope they aren’t stupid (yes I said stupid) enough to believe that Jesus only loves them and empathizes and sympothizes with them.

    This conservative Christian KNOWS that Jesus loves everyone, even the person who made this video. That does not mean that he would like the video. A little into 2 min & a man is masterbateing ! That is NOT art !!! Lets be real & call it for what it is. Sick & tasteless.

  38. It wasn’t even intentionally sacreligious, and if a straight guy created the exact same imagery I doubt there would be any uproar. Anti-gay conservatives simply they they and they alone own God. This censorship is selfish and cowardly to the core.


    “I regret that some reports about the exhibit have created an impression that the video is intentionally sacrilegious,” Sullivan told the Associated Press.

    Sullivan explained that the video conveyed the idea that humans are created in the image of Christ and that “we’re all going back into the earth, that we’re decaying.”

    “If you look at Latin American art and imagery, really over time there are a lot of portrayals of Christian iconography with suffering, agony and death,” Sullivan said.”

  39. Jake, you are wrong on that. Straight people get bashed for sacrilige also!!! It wasn’t just the Christ thing either. It was the package.

  40. Hold on a minute hear the fact is God so loved the world the world has rejected God after he made it prefect we Sinned and this world been bad ever since God came to save us from Our Sins And we ether except His free gift His Son YESHUA MESSIAH For all this dung about Christians Not wanting filth as art is correct Homosexuals have a choice ether stop sinning are continue to sin Stop pushing you choice on the rest of us God loves everyone He hates our sins This is why Christ died for us Repent of your sin confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and you will be saved If not the wages of sin his death completed separation from God Hell

  41. you’re right pastor Carmen. God did so love the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should never perish but have eternal life. Also, By grace are you saved through faith in christ jesus, not of your own works, it is a gift of God lest anyone should boast.
    Please specify in these verses of grace where there are requirements aside from faith?
    If faith was inspired in me by the holy spirit and i believe in jesus as my savior then I am saved, gay or not. If I am required to do something (like stop sinning) then there is no longer any grace, but I have to earn my salvation. That would be works righteousness, and therefore the concept of actual grace would be a fallacy.

  42. Kev, I’m glad you know Jesus as your Savior, and yes, it is by faith not works in which we are saved. However, when we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, born again, we realize our sinful behavior (no matter or whatever the sin as we are all sinners) we will repent, turn away and seek forgiveness. Jesus has saved us all (whether or not people believe is another matter) but there are numerous verses which address continuing in sin. Jesus Himself said to the woman brought to Him by the pharisees who accused her of adultery told her that He doesn’t condemn her, but to go and sin no more. Later, in Romans, the issue is spoken about as well:
    Rom 6:1-5 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
    God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

  43. (carolyn you had said: Jesus has saved us all (whether or not people believe is another matter)This is not so according to the Bible)-
    He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36
    Faith without works is dead. James 2:26
    except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3,5
    That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. romans 10:9 shows that we must obviously be saved and that we need to be saved through Jesus alone. There are many that believe in their haed, but not in their heart. thats why we have so many people who don’t act like Christian and just live in sin and hatefulness. They aren’t really saved. Thats why many don’t want Jesus.

  44. Pingback: Ten Commandments or Bozo the Clown, what’s hangin’? « Satan's Blog

  45. Is anything/everything connected with AIDS considered, “art”? It was rightly pulled, but
    more because it was suck-ass piss-poor piece of
    shit attempt at art, than for any other reason.
    What, was the semen covered picture of Andy Warhol
    not available for viewing?

  46. Carolyn,
    You are correct. We should try to sin no more. That is the outter manifestation of having a saving faith. However, people are weak. If they/we are unable to effect such bold changes and cannot sin no more, we are not condemned. A weak person is still saved, through faith. Or what about the person that doesn’t believe EXACTLY as you do? What if they are wrong, yet they still have faith, but they believe in reading the scriptures differently? Are they condemned because of it? Their faith then is not enough to save them? “Sinning no more” was not/is not a requirement of salvation – a persons faith in Jesus cleans our sins away in the sight of God the Father.