Smithsonian secretary Wayne Clough has been criticized for his silence in the wake of his decision to remove David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly" from the National Portrait Gallery. Though Clough doesn't plan to speak to reporters until a Jan. 20 press event in Los Angeles — possibly issuing a statement before that date — there is one person he's taken questions from: Collector Jim Hedges.
Hedges lent the museum Jack Pierson's "Self-Portrait" for Hide/Seek, and when the controversy erupted, he watched as the Warhol and Mapplethorpe Foundations decided to reject future grant applications from the Smithsonian, and as artist AA Bronson requested that his work be removed. Hedges, in turn, decided to request the return of Pierson's work as a protest against the Smithsonian's decision.
However, as he writes in the Huffington Post, curators Jonathan Katz and David Ward asked Hedges not to further dismantle their show. But it wasn't until Hedges received a personal phone call from Secretary Clough that he finally reversed his position. The work will stay in the show until it closes in February.
"And so to Mr. Clough, I say, thank you for five more weeks of lending me your real estate so that the curator's visions can be seen by thousands of visitors. I hope that as many members of Congress as possible get a chance to see Jack Pierson's masterpiece," wrote Hedges.
However, Clough has still not spoken to at least one of his curators. Katz tells TBD that he still has not received any direct communication from the secretary. Ward has not yet responded to an interview request. While Katz supported Clough's reasons for calling Hedges, because he also wanted to retain the piece in the show, Katz says, "It would have been nice if he had spoken to me, too."