A work of video art briefly depicting a figurine of Christ with ants crawling on it has been yanked from the Smithsonian's Portrait Gallery after complaints from a Catholic group and members of Congress.
The four-minute video, made by the late New York City artist David Wojnarowicz, features an 11-second segment of a small crucifix teeming with the insects. It had been on exhibit since Oct. 30 as part of a show on sexual difference in American portrait art.
The piece was labeled "hate speech" by Catholic League president William Donohue and a misuse of taxpayer money by the office of Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), The Washington Post
"While the amount of money involved may be small, it's symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans' hard-earned money," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner, the likely next Speaker of the House.
Smithsonian officials told the Post they removed the offending piece to make sure the show's other pieces weren't overshadowed by the controversy.
"The decision wasn't caving in," said museum director Martin E. Sullivan. "We don't want to shy away from anything that is controversial, but we want to focus on the museum's and this show's strengths."
The video was included in the exhibit, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture." The Post said the show was paid for in part by a large number of private donors.