Smithsonian Won’t Cave to Sponsor Pressure to Replace Gay Exhibit’s Ant-Covered Crucifix Video

By Penny Starr | December 15, 2010 | 4:01 AM EST

A crucifix in the video “A Fire in My Belly,” part of the ‘Hide/Seek’ exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The image shows Christ on the cross with ants crawling over his body and face. ( Starr)

( – Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said a video that includes images of ants swarming over Jesus Christ on a crucifix will not be reinstalled in the National Portrait Gallery’s controversial homosexual exhibit “Hide/Seek,” despite the decision by one of the show’s sponsors not to fund any future projects unless the video is put back on display.

The Andy Warhol Foundation informed Clough on Monday that the foundation’s board of directors decided that unless David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video was put back on display, it would “cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions.”

“While we regret the foundation’s action, the Smithsonian’s decision to remove the video was a difficult one and we stand by it,” Clough said in a statement released to the media on Monday. “The 104 works of the Hide/Seek exhibition will remain on view at the National Portrait Gallery.”

The letter from the foundation also said that the Smithsonian had given in “to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibit out of ignorance, hatred and fear.”

On Nov. 30, one day after reported on ‘Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,’ and the pieces in the exhibit, including photographs of brothers kissing, sadomasochism, and a painting made of the cremated ashes of a man with AIDS who committed suicide, the National Portrait Gallery announced it was pulling Wojnarowicz’s video from the exhibit.

“It was not the museum’s intention to offend,” Martin Sullivan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement released after the decision was made to remove the video. “We are removing the video today.”

The Andy Warhol Foundation donated $100,000 to the Hide/Seek exhibit, according to a spokesperson for the National Portrait Gallery. Over the past four years, the spokesperson said, the foundation has donated $375,000 to Smithsonian art exhibits.

The spokesperson also said that in fiscal year 2010 the Smithsonian Institute received $65 million from foundations for various exhibitions and programs.