In 2010, when the exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” opened at the National Portrait Gallery, it was missing a provocative video about gay love during the AIDS epidemic by artist David Wojnarowicz. Although G. Wayne Clough, the Secretary of the Smithsonian (2008–14), had pushed back on calls from social and religious conservatives to cancel the entire exhibition, which focused on sexual and gender fluidity in art, he bowed to pressure by removing Wojnarowicz’s video that features a 12-second scene of a crucifix covered in ants. The controversy generated by this act of censorship prompted vigorous debates in the press and drew large crowds to the exhibition. A decade later, the repercussions of Clough’s decision still resonate.
Join National Portrait Gallery senior historian Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw at 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, as she speaks with Lonnie G. Bunch III, the current Secretary of the Smithsonian, and John W. McCarter Jr., a former member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, about the Hide/Seek censorship controversy and its broader impact on exhibition planning practices, both at the Smithsonian and beyond.
Sponsored by the Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series on LGBTQ+ Portraiture.