The story of how "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" came to Tacoma is an unusual and interesting one, one that says something about the importance of the exhibition and its place in contemporary cultural, and museum, politics.
If it follows the advice of a committee, Smithsonian museums will be buried under a new layer of procedural requirements for public input whenever a cautious curator flags a proposed exhibition as "sensitive."
In making the decision to remove a controversial work of art from one of the Smithsonian's museums, Clough has shown that he cannot adequately uphold the mission and the legacy of this American institution.
How did Clough analyze the potential damage from the political, cultural and religious firestorm that erupted over his order to remove one work from the National Portrait Gallery's provocative, gay-themed "Hide/Seek" exhibition?
Politicians who know relatively little about art and museums should adhere to the "don't ask" admonition: They should refrain from asking the NPG to take down works that, in professional curators' judgment, belong in the show.
The Smithsonian should realize that there are many ways to interpret art and religious respect. The National Portrait Gallery should re-instate "Fire In My Belly" as an act of righteousness and courage -- and make the exhibit whole again.
Monday's news that the Andy Warhol Foundation may pull the plug on all future support for Smithsonian exhibitions is just the latest example of out-of-proportion responses by defenders of artist David Wojnarowicz's work.
With all the joblessness, foreclosures, homelessness, an exploding deficit and a couple of wars we are fighting, the new Republican leadership is battling to keep a piece of art from spoiling their Christmas season.