If you thought the controversy over the National Portrait Gallery‘s decision to pull artist David Wojnarowicz‘s piece A Fire in My Belly back in November had petered out, you’ll find that you’re sorely mistaken. Though the fires had died down a bit around the holiday season, they were fully stoked again over the weekend and on into yesterday, when the Smithsonian‘s board of regents held a meeting for the first time since the controversy began. First, in a surprising move, the board of trustees from one of the organization’s own institutions, the Hirshhorn Museum, issued a statement against the decision to pull Wojnarowicz’s piece. While praising the work of the head of the Smithsonian, Wayne Clough, the statement is largely filled with some very strong and harsh words about the situation Clough himself played a central role in creating. Meanwhile, the calls have continued for Clough’s ouster. Yesterday, the LA Times printed this op-ed piece by Tyler Green calling for his resignation, saying, “As long as Clough leads the Smithsonian, the institution’s curators cannot produce history and conduct research without wondering if their work will become politically expendable. To restore integrity to the Smithsonian’s work, Clough must go.” That sentiment was echoed on the other side of the country as well, with the same group who had staged protests in mid-December in New York, ART+, arriving outside of Smithsonian Castle yesterday to once again voice their opinions on the matter. With all this rush of new attention, it’s sure to be fascinating to see if Clough continues to weather the storm in relative hiding or if the Smithsonian will wind up caving to pressure for the second time in this controversy’s life.
Update: News of yesterday’s meeting has been released and the Smithsonian’s board is standing behind both the decision and Clough, neither of which is sure to appease those with differing opinions on the matter.