Catholic League: “Funding Museums is Class Discrimination”

From a Dec. 6 press release on behalf of Catholic League president Bill Donohue:

In a large survey of museum-going households released in April, it was found that they are significantly better educated and affluent than the U.S. population; they are also overwhelmingly white. The time has come, then, to stop funding the leisure of rich white people: all public monies for the arts should cease. Quite frankly, to make the working class pay for the leisure of the rich amounts to class discrimination. In the spirit of social justice, a better case could be made to fund professional wrestling—it’s what the working class enjoy.

Wojnarowicz Smithsonian protest

Protesters holding masks in support of David Wojnarowicz in front of the Smithsonians' National Portrait Gallery. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

This statement was, of course, issued in response to the controversy mounting in the wake of the Smithsonian’s decision to pull David Wojnarowicz’s Fire in My Belly from the exhibition Hide/Seek at the National Portrait Gallery.  As Frank Rich points out in an on-spot piece for the New York Times, prior to his current shenanigans, Bill Donohue was “best known for defending Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism by  declaring that ‘Hollywood is controlled by Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.'”  Rich continues,

A perennial critic of all news media except Fox, he has also accused The Times of anti-Catholicism because it investigated the church pedophilia scandal. Donohue maintains the church doesn’t have a “pedophilia crisis” but a “homosexual crisis.” Such is the bully that the Smithsonian surrendered to without a fight.

Donohue’s tactic was to label the 11-second ants-and-crucifix sequence as “anti-Christian” hate speech. “The irony,” wrote the Washington Post art critic, Blake Gopnik, is that the video is merely a tepid variation on the centuries-old tradition of artists using images of Christ, many of them “hideously grisly,” to speak of mankind’s suffering. Those images are staples of all museums — even in Washington, where gory 17th-century sculptures of Christ were featured in a recent show of Spanish sacred art at the National Gallery.

That Wojnarowicz was himself raised Catholic—and that Fire in My Belly indeed fits squarely within the long, grotesque tradition of Christian religious art designed to spark identification with Christ’s suffering among victims of violence and disease—was a subject of our conversation following the Hedreen Gallery’s screening of the video last Friday.  Amanda Manitach has a thoughtful post about the discussion on My Heroes Died of Syphilis.

~ by emilypothast on December 12, 2010.

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