MoMA Acquires A Fire in My Belly, Piece That Ignited Smithsonian Controversy

If there’s one thing that never hurts to raise a piece of art’s perceived social value, it’s controversy. Recently in the museum business, and the art world in general, there hasn’t been much more controversial or as high-profile as the ongoing debacle over the National Portrait Gallery‘s decision to remove the piece A Fire in My Belly by artist David Wojnarowicz back in early December, following some fabricated beating of the drums and calls for outrage by a select few political and religious groups. The move seemingly everyone upset, but it also pushed the artists’ piece front and center, undoubtably now seen by perhaps hundreds of thousands more people who would have otherwise never had known it even existed. That seems like it will continue to be the case with the latest news this week that the MoMA has acquired the piece and will immediately begin displaying it as part of a new exhibition (this in addition to the museum’s announcement yesterday that it’s bringing Juxtapoz to the big screen). So like with muralist Blu and the LAMOCA on the other side of the country, the bad possibly also wound up resulting in some good for the artist himself. Here’s the official statement:

The Museum of Modern Art has acquired a complete version of A Fire in My Belly (1986–87) by David Wojnarowicz — both its original 13-minute version and a 7- minute excerpt made by the artist — announced MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry today. MoMA is the first institution to acquire the video, and it goes on view today in the Museum’s exhibition Contemporary Art from the Collection, a focused examination of artistic practice since the late 1960s that considers how current events from the last 40 years have shaped artists’ work.