Home » AA Bronson vs. National Portrait Gallery: Raising the Stakes

AA Bronson vs. National Portrait Gallery: Raising the Stakes

If you haven’t heard about the AA Bronson brou-ha-ha by now….


Canadian artist AA Bronson. Image: flickr.com

Well, let’s just say that the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, which is showing the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, exploring art by and about homosexuals, has caved to pressure by Christian activists and removed video piece, A Fire in My Belly, by the late artist David Wojnarowicz that included some images of a crucifix crawling with ants.


David Wojnarowicz, A Fire in My Belly, 1987 (video still). Image: realartways.org

In protest, Bronson has asked that his piece in the show, titled Felix, June 5, 1994, be removed. The photograph shows Bronson’s former partner, Felix Partz, shortly after he died of AIDS. So far, Bronson has managed to get the National Gallery of Canada, which donated the piece to the show, on his side, but to no avail – so far, the NPG is not budging.


AA Bronson, Felix, June 5, 1994. Image: torontolife.com

Tonight, AA sent me a letter written to the NPG by the lawyers that he has now retained, demanding that his piece be returned by January 17, or the Wojnarowicz video replaced, otherwise they “are instructed to institute any necessary legal proceedings as may be necessary to enforce our client’s rights without further notice or delay.” The letter is cc’d to Bronson, the National Gallery of Canada’s director Marc Mayer, and the lawyers.

The exhibition is on at the NPG until February 13, and you can see the missing video HERE.

It’s a powerful piece and I wish AA Bronson good luck in his fight. It’s well worth it.

Stay tuned…

3 Responses to “AA Bronson vs. National Portrait Gallery: Raising the Stakes”

  1. Elena Potter says:

    Wow. I’ve heard about this a bit, but hadn’t yet seen the piece.. The argument against the ants crawling over a crucifix is pretty feeble considering the other disturbing/powerful images used in the work; maybe they found everything else offensive (nudity/sexuality, implied violence) but didn’t want to say so.

    I’m glad Bronson isn’t backing down!

  2. Bill says:

    This is just another very annoying example of an increasingly vocal Christian right and other U.S. conservative groups trying to dictate what the rest of the population can and can’t see, and how we all should be living our lives. If you don’t want to see it, don’t go to the show, but don’t prevent others from seeing it. I can’t see what the National Portrait Gallery had to gain by removing this video. It’s not as if an exhibition of this nature is going to attract hardline conservatives to the museum. Do hardline conservatives (like Glenn Beck) and the Christian right look at contemporary art for any reason other to find things to get their knickers in a twist about, anyway?

  3. AC says:

    No, Bill I don’t think they do…

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