In the Arts section of Sunday’s Washington Post, they celebrated the appointment of curator David Ward as the senior historian of the National Portrait Gallery. Why does it matter? Ward was a central figure in the controversial 2010 exhibit “Hide/Seek,” which contained a defamatory video of Jesus crucified being crawled on by ants.
As a libertine leftist, Ward hated it when complaints from top Republicans caused the gallery bosses at the time to "cave" and remove the Jesus-trashing piece, as did liberal journalists. So the headline on Sunday honored Ward as “A historian with an eye on the future.” The caption under his picture promised Ward “is not afraid to present history in new ways.”
Notice how Post reporter Katherine Boyle – not on staff during the 2010 controversy – completely elides exactly what was controversial about the exhibit – no mention of Jesus or ants crawling on his dead body – and like most reporters, ignores how the story broke, in a eye-popping report with pictures by Penny Starr of our own CNSNews.com.
Why disturb the Post subscriber on Sunday by describing how Christians were mocked with their own money? Boyle only wants to underline how Ward’s promotion is for lefties a “welcome validation of his vision,” which when accurately translated means bringing conservative-trashing politics into taxpayer-funded museums:
Ward plays down his recent promotion to senior historian, saying that he was next in line for the job. But for some, Ward’s promotion is a welcome validation of his vision and arguably, his most memorable exhibition, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” the 2010 award-winning exhibition of gay portraiture.
As co-curator of “Hide/Seek,” Ward became the chief defender of the exhibition after Smithsonian leadership removed a portion of artist David Wojnarowicz’s video installation “A Fire in My Belly,” following complaints from a Catholic group and members of Congress. The removal of the video — which Ward and Portrait Gallery leadership actively resisted — sparked an outcry from arts groups, museum leaders and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups opposed to censoring the exhibition. Ward maintained the curator’s presence in “Hide/Seek,” defending the exhibition amid political controversy, while also, like the historian he is, seeking to understand why the controversy erupted as it did.
“The thing with ‘Hide/Seek’ was that everyone [at the Portrait Gallery] recognized the curatorial work,” he says. “But it brought up the salient question, which is: Who is represented in the Portrait Gallery? Twenty five years ago there would have been antagonism to representing African Americans on these walls. Same thing with the feminist movement, putting women on the walls.”
So conservatives objecting to a Jesus-trashing exhibit? Racist and sexist to the core, obviously. At the time, Ward basically lied to media supporters like NPR's Neda Ulaby that "We're not doing a political exhibition."
But a plaque fixed to the wall at the entrance to the exhibit put politics front and center, announcing the National Portrait Gallery is “committed to showing how a major theme in American history has been the struggle for justice so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity." It was about "the inherent queerness of America" as "right-wing Catholic ire" is placed on the ash heap of history.
In 2010, the Post covered a one-sided panel discussion in New York, where another curator called the defenders of Jesus an "American Taliban," and Ward not so subtly compared conservative critics of the exhibit to the Nazis:
I'm seriously concerned with the ongoing deeper threat, and you can pull in your own historical analogy from Germany in the 1930s. And I've been a close observer of progressive politics in America for the last 40 years. And people on the left side of the aisle are always enforcing ideological purity on each other in ways that allow our enemies to run over us with a tank. And I think at some point -- [a little clapping] -- c'mon, you can do more than that [laughter, more applause] -- I think at some point, there has to be almost a kind of pragmatic assessment of how we fight back against this. And we would love for Hide/Seek to do what it attempts to do, which is to crystallize a presence which becomes the basis for an opposition against the politics that we abhor.
So he’s leftist jerk trying to stick it to the Tea Party Nazis. But the Post just sees him as an artistic visionary. Apparently, they’re the same thing. At article’s end, Boyle reports Ward hopes to “continue to surprise,” and that, what do you know, the museum is going to turn out to have a “progressive” mission on taxpayer support:
Ward hopes that the National Portrait Gallery will continue to surprise. And yes, Ward will be going through every label on the wall, ensuring that the Portrait Gallery always reflects contemporary American culture.
“I’ve said we are a small museum that continually punches above its weight,” Ward says. “Maybe because we’re smaller, its enabled us to be responsive to shifts in the museum world and to pay attention to the non-political classes. We’re bringing in people who’ve helped to create American culture who wouldn’t have been considered by historians 30 years ago. I’m not sure we have a mission to be progressive, but I think it’s turned out that way.”