Who Should Decide What is Art?

by Jeffrey Miron on December 1st, 2010
5 CommentsComments

House Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday called for the dismantling of an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery after they learned that it contains video of a Jesus statue with ants crawling on it, as well as works of art with strongly sexual themes.

If Boehner and Cantor want to oppose all government funding of art, I will cheer them from the highest rooftops. But they are not taking a principled stance here; they are helping the government dictate what constitutes art.  That is bad for freedom, and bad for art.

Update:

The National Portrait Gallery agreed to remove one of the artworks from the exhibit late Tuesday. “A Fire in My Belly,” the video installation that depicts ants on a cross, was taken down.

Museum director Martin Sullivan said in a statement, “I regret that some reports about the exhibit have created an impression that the video is intentionally sacrilegious.”

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Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Miron  |  Created by Brian D. Aitken
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