Months after events around the “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” plunged the Smithsonian Institution into a heated political and cultural conversation, the museum has organized a two-day meeting to discuss what happened.
The topics and the panelists, released Wednesday by the Smithsonian, are packed with Smithsonian curators and officials, who hopefully will discuss the internal impact of the controversy on the world’s largest museum complex. The removal by Secretary Wayne G. Clough of a video by David Wojnarowicz after objections from conservative politicians put the Smithsonian in the crosshairs of a debate about artistic freedom and political influence.
The show, organized by the National Portrait Gallery, was the first at a major museum to show images of gender identity and gay sexuality. It closed in February.
Clough will open the discussion April 26 at 6 p.m. with Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler galleries and Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian undersecretary for history, art and culture. After those remarks, the first panel, “Curation: Responsibilities, Constraints and Controversy,” will include David C. Ward, the historian of the portrait gallery and co-curator of “Hide/Seek.”
The final panel on Tuesday, “Representing Sensitive Topics: Gender and Sexuality,” will include Thom Collins, director of the Miami Art Museum and Jonathan Katz, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and chair of Visual Studies at SUNY Buffalo.
The discussions reconvene on April 27 at 9:30 a.m. with a panel on “Curation: Listening to Artists, Scientists, Public Figures, Cultural Communities.” Two art critics will comment during the day: Jed Perl of the New Republic and Blake Gopnik, formerly of The Washington Post, and now with Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
The second panel Wednesday will include a discussion of politics and curating. The speakers will include Frank Hodsoll and Bill Ivey, former chairmen of the National Endowment for the Arts and Ford Bell, the president of the American Association of Museums.
Another panel will look at museum boards and audiences and their impact on exhibitions.
Martin Sullivan, the Portrait Gallery director, will provide the forum summary, along with Lonnie G. Bunch, the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
All the discussions are scheduled for the Freer Gallery of Art Meyer Auditorium.