December 08, 2010

To Post art critic Blake Gopnik, the “show about gay sex” at the gallery is “courageous” and “full of wonderful art. My review of it was a rave.”

What Gopnik raved about are the kind of pictures that used to be on French postcards, the possession of which in the 1950s could get you kicked out of high school.

As for the gallery’s pulling of “A Fire in My Belly,” Gopnik wrote that the NPG curators “come off as cowards.”

Down the hall from the “Hide/Seek” homoerotic art and gay sex show is the Steven Spielberg-George Lucas collection of paintings by Norman Rockwell, which they loaned to the gallery. While Gopnik raved about the former, the Rockwell paintings, so beloved of flyover country, are just the kind of bourgeois schlock art that truly repulses him.

Writes Gopnik: “Norman Rockwell would get the boot (from the National Portrait Gallery) if I believed in pulling everything that I’m offended by. I can’t stand the view of America that (Rockwell) represents, which I believe insults a huge number of the non-mainstream folks.”

The reason I don’t demand that Rockwell’s trash be pulled, says Gopnik, is “because his (Rockwell’s) detractors, including me, got to rant about how much they hated his art.”

Cantor “has said that taxpayer-funded museums should uphold ‘common standards of decency,’” says Gopnik. “But such ‘standards’ don’t exist and shouldn’t in a pluralist society.”

Interesting. But if there are no common standards of decency, there is no moral community, and where there is no moral community, there is no country. If we cannot agree on what is beautiful, moral and decent, are we really “one nation, under God, indivisible” anymore?

Gopnik and the Post have put critics of the gallery’s sex show on notice that their protests are to be restricted to the verbal. Neither they nor Congress have a right to tell curators what to exhibit and not exhibit. “(T)he use of public dollars does not give lawmakers the right to micromanage or censor public displays,” says the Post.

The gauntlet has been thrown down to the new GOP majority: Keep your puritanical hands off our museums.

The Smithsonian needs a haircut next year to remind these folks who’s boss and that with public funding comes public responsibility.


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