The head of the Smithsonian said he's now sorry he so quickly yanked a video from a museum exhibit featuring gay artists because of warnings by Republican Party leaders that it could trigger "budgetary consequences." It's "the most painful thing I've ever done," G. Wayne Clough told the Los Angeles Times yesterday after a presentation in California. He says he axed the video, Fire in the Belly, in part because GOP Congressmen John Boehner and Eric Cantor warned that taxpayer funds—which account for 75% of the Smithsonian's budget—could be cut because the video was viewed as anti-Christian.
The video was yanked that afternoon, even though the museum explained on its website that the "surrealistic" collage expressed the "suffering and decay" of AIDS patients, rather than a "condemnation of Christianity." Clough said he wanted to avoid a media storm that would have distracted from the rest of the exhibit. Oddly, he hadn't seen the 1987 video by David Wojnarowicz when he made the decision—but he consulted with experts who believed that while the work has artistic merit, it "didn't add much" to the exhibit, he explained. Now, Clough says, he wishes he had consulted with more experts and taken more time before coming to a decision.