Warhol Foundation Threatens to End Smithsonian Funding Over Censored Artwork

The Andy Warhol Foundation on Monday threatened to end funding to the Smithsonian Institution unless it restores a piece of controversial video art that was pulled from a National Portrait Gallery exhibition this month.

The foundation’s board voted last week to demand that the Smithsonian reinstate David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly,” which, in some parts, shows ants crawling on a crucifix.

The video was removed two weeks ago after it drew complaints and condemnation from the Catholic League’s William Donohue -- who called it a form of “hate speech” -- and members of the House of Representatives, including Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Eric Cantor, R-Va.

With sharp words, the Warhol group's President Joel Wachs accused the Smithsonian of bowing “to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear.”

The institution’s secretary, Wayne Clough, defended the Smithsonian’s decision Monday in response to the Warhol Foundation’s ultimatum.

“While we regret the Foundation’s action, the Smithsonian’s decision to remove the video was a difficult one and we stand by it,” Clough said through a spokesperson.

The Warhol Foundation said it has given the Smithsonian $375,000 for several exhibitions, including $100,000 for "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," from which the video was pulled.

The foundation’s threat is the latest action in a string of controversies over the video’s removal.

A few days after “A Fire in My Belly” was yanked, about 75 people marched in silent protest towards the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, carrying pictures of a man with his mouth sewn shut. The protesters lined up across the entrance and projected the video onto the side of the building.