New York’s Museum of Modern Art is taking a stand for artistic freedom with a controversial exhibit of David Wojnarowicz’s video artwork “A Fire in My Belly.” Catholics and Republican lawmakers forced its withdrawal from the National Portrait Gallery in November.
The museum called Wojnarowicz, “one of the most influential artists to have emerged from New York in the 1980s.”
“A Fire in My Belly” will go on display on Thursday (Jan. 20). It will be part of a collection reflecting the AIDS crisis from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The fury over the video focused on a scene that shows ants crawling over Christ on a crucifix.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said the scene was tantamount to anti-Christian “hate speech.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor also urged the Smithsonian Institute, which oversees the National Portrait Gallery to pull the exhibit.
The Smithsonian’s drew and instant rebuke from art organization, who accused it of suppressing artistic freedom.
The Museum of Modern Art was one of those organizations protesting the move.
“We endorse the position of the Association of Art Museum Directors, which states that freedom of expression is essential to the health and welfare of our communities and our nation,” it said in an email to Reuters.
The artist was suffering from HIV when he made the video and he died in 1992.
It’s themes are ‘death, social inequality, faith, and desire.”
“While we expect a range of reactions to the piece, they will not affect the Museum’s decision to display it in what is an appropriate context,” the museum said.