Now on view: David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire In My Belly

The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, has been the site of controversy since December 1, when museum officials responded to political pressures and removed a film by the late artist David Wojnarowicz from the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. In response to this crisis, two versions of the film A Fire in My Belly, A Work in Progress (1986-87) will be on view at the Henry Art Gallery until February 13, 2011, when Hide/Seek closes at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Henry’s installation will also include Wojnarowicz’s poster project Untitled (One Day This Kid) (1990) which has been made available for download through the artist’s estate and P.P.O.W. Gallery ; and a selection of statements (from the Smithsonian, the Catholic League, the Warhol Foundation, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and from regional museum directors).  A display of articles and essays sparked by these events will also be available, including Holland Cotter’s article from The New York Times, As Ants Crawl over a Crucifix, Dead Artist is Assailed Again, and Frank Rich’s editorial Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian, and responses from Seattle arts journalists Jen Graves and Regina Hackett. This display of resources for discussion is expandable, and as the conversation continues Henry staff will incorporate new materials.

A Fire in My Belly, A Work in Progress, into which the artist has edited a montage of video footage shot in Mexico, has been said to capture his anger and struggle with both the death of a lover and his own H.I.V. diagnosis. Since its making, this film has become an iconic art work from the 1980s and has had a visible place in AIDS activism in New York and the U.S.

DVD and poster in the exhibition courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York.

Public Program: Seminar on Censorship
Sunday, January 9 from 2-4
Join us at the Henry for a community conversation with regional arts professionals, UW faculty, artists, journalists, and activists exploring and analyzing the complex of issues surrounding the recent removal of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from view at the National Portrait Gallery. Topics may include: the politicization of the work of gay artists by conservative activists, the silencing of artists through censorship, the specter of renewed culture wars, and the roles and responsibilities of museums as discursive spaces.

Participating speakers will be announced soon.

For a selection of articles on this topic visit

2 thoughts on “Now on view: David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire In My Belly

  1. I’ve been really impressed with the artworld’s response to this issue. Both the protests organized in NYC and the funding withdrawal by the Warhol Foundation. Not to mention that my Facebook stream (normally silent on these kinds of issues) has been popping up with lots of concern and support. The republicans were the activists on this issue. But the artworld managed to pull together a response. And let’s hope we all payed a little more attention to David’s amazingly giving and activist career as a brilliant artist. Go team!

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