The Associated Press December 14, 2010, 9:32AM ET

Warhol group threatens to end Smithsonian funding

The Andy Warhol Foundation said Monday it will withhold future funding to the Smithsonian Institution unless a video removed from the National Portrait Gallery after a Catholic group complained is restored.

Joel Wachs, president of the foundation, said its board voted Friday to demand the video by late artist David Wojnarowicz -- which depicts ants crawling on a crucifix -- be reinstalled at the gallery. The board sent a letter and e-mail Monday to Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough.

The Warhol Foundation has been proud a supporter of the current Portrait Gallery exhibit "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," Wachs wrote. It is the first major museum exhibit to explore the impact of sexual orientation on art history.

"Such blatant censorship is unconscionable," he wrote. "We cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear."

"For the arts to flourish the arts must be free," Wachs wrote.

The foundation says it has given $375,000 over the past three years to various Smithsonian museums, including $100,000 to help fund "Hide/Seek," from which the video was removed.

Other museums and galleries in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have rushed to show the video in protest of its removal by the Smithsonian on Nov. 30. The Association of Art Museum Directors also has condemned the Smithsonian's removal of the piece.

Clough said in a statement Monday that the Smithsonian won't show the video again.

"While we regret the foundation's action, the Smithsonian's decision to remove the video was a difficult one and we stand by it," he said. "The 104 works of the 'Hide Seek' exhibition will remain on view at the National Portrait Gallery."

The museum has said the video became a distraction from the larger themes of the exhibit, which opened in late October.

The Smithsonian received more than $65 million in support from foundations during the 2010 fiscal year.

Wojnarowicz's work explored the subject of AIDS. He died in 1992 of complications from the disease at age 37. The exhibit also features works by major artists, including Warhol, Jasper Johns, Thomas Eakins and Annie Leibovitz.

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Associated Press Writer Kasey Jones in Baltimore contributed to this report.


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