As part of its fall 2018 grant program, the Andy Warhol Foundation will give $100,000 to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York for a traveling Oscar Howe retrospective, lifting its eight-year funding ban on the Smithsonian Institution.
It instituted the ban in 2010 when the Smithsonian removed artist David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly (1986–87) from the exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” after the Catholic League and conservative politicians claimed that a segment showing ants climbing atop a crucifix was offensive.
The Warhol Foundation’s president, Joel Wachs, said in a statement, “We believe that the ban has had its intended effect of promoting freedom of artistic expression at the national level. The Smithsonian has also demonstrated a strong track record of highlighting underrepresented artists over the past eight years, which aligns well with the foundation’s core values. While Wojnarowicz and Howe were very different artists working in different circumstances, both fiercely advocated for the visibility and inclusion of marginalized perspectives in contemporary art discourse.”
The Oscar Howe show will include some 75 paintings, many of which will be on view for the first time. Howe, who died in 1983, at the age of 68, was a member of the Yanktonai Dakota tribe, and he worked as an artist and activist during his lifetime.
“Howe’s work,” Wachs said, “was revolutionary in its time and paved the way for Native artists to claim greater agency; his life and work are a testament to the strength of artistic commitment to shape and influence contemporary culture.”