The D.C. arts community is slowly coming to grips with the new order of things in Washington.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, who just happens to be making his case to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was on Fox News this morning, calling for an investigation into a decision by the National Portrait Gallery to exhibit a work of video art that depicts a small statute of a crucified Jesus with ants crawling over the figure.
The exhibit was removed Tuesday. Here’s Kingston:
“This is a museum that gets $5.8 million in taxpayer dollars and in the middle of a high deficit, 15 million unemployed Americans, they decide to have money to spend like this…..This is a museum that, by the way, has next to it a display of the American presidents, on the other side, Elvis, and then you go through this – which is really perverted sick stuff – ashes of an AIDS victim, in a self-portrait, eating himself. Male nudity, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her own breast – lots of really kinky and really questionable kind of art art….
And right next to Elvis, too. Disgusting. Kingston continues:
“They claim that this is not paid for by tax dollars, yet this is a public building with a publicly paid staff, public heat and air-conditioning, if you will, public security. So there’s no question the taxpayers are subsidizing this. It’s no different than the Pentagon going out and paying $500 for a hammer….”
Officials at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday removed a work of video art depicting Christ with ants crawling over him after complaints from a Catholic organization and members of Congress.
The four-minute video, created by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, had been on exhibit since Oct. 30 as part of a show on sexual difference in American portraiture.
The piece was called “hate speech” by Catholic League president William Donohue and a misuse of taxpayer money by a spokesman for Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive incoming House speaker.
Officials at the museum and the Smithsonian Institution, which includes the Portrait Gallery, said they had not intended to be offensive by showing the work and removed it to better focus on the exhibit’s strengths.
“The decision wasn’t caving in,” said Martin E. Sullivan, the museum’s director. “We don’t want to shy away from anything that is controversial, but we want to focus on the museum’s and this show’s strengths.”
An 11-second portion of the video shows a small crucifix covered with ants. The video is included in the exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.”