Town Hall Journal

Hide and Seek: Art, Challenge, and Controversy

When Wayne Clough, secretary of The Smithsonian Institution, came to Town Hall Los Angeles recently, he was greeted by crowds of protesters. The reason for the uproar? The Smithsonian had recently made the decision to remove a controversial work from its exhibit “Hide and Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” in response to pressure from religious groups. Artists and free speech advocates across the nation decried the move, branding it as censorship. Before launching into his planned talk on The Smithsonian’s newest outreach developments, Clough addressed the controversy and its outcome. But art, by its nature, has always inspired vigorous debate. The argument over so-called obscene imagery goes back to the 16th century – as our Town Hall Vault segment recalls. Where to draw the line in publicly funded art?

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