WASHINGTON -- On Jan. 29, the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution held a symposium on “Addressing (and Redressing) the Silence: New Scholarship in Sexuality and American Art.”
Gathering in the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, which boasts Robert Rauschenberg’s great lithograph triptych “Autobiography” (1968) at its entrance, 11 scholars, some well-established figures in the field, some now entering it, held their audience amazingly fast from 9 in the morning to 8 at night.
One might have thought the symposium was an act of public penance for the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video “Fire in the Belly” from the gallery’s Oct. 30-Feb. 13 exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.”
G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian, succumbed Dec. 1 to the two-pronged attack of John Boehner and Eric Cantor from the House of Representatives and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. (Wojnarowicz’s AIDS-themed video contains a brief passage showing a crucifix crawling with ants.)