BAM/PFA Responds to National Portrait Gallery Censorship

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) strongly opposes the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s removal of video content from its exhibition, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which examines the representation of gay and lesbian identities in modern American portraiture. Protecting the free speech rights of artists and curators in the face of powerful political pressure takes courage, but without courageous action, artistic expression, First Amendment rights, and democracy are jeopardized.

Art is one of the most powerful means by which we can recognize each other’s common humanity, develop empathy, and enjoy the prospect of peaceful co-existence. While individual works of art can inspire the imagination, sometimes we encounter artwork that is disturbing, provocative, even offensive to us. Rather than censor challenging artworks, BAM/PFA believes these works present opportunities to ignite critical dialogue, activating the very principles of free speech that protect American democracy.

— Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Find out more about how other cultural institutions are responding to the NPG’s censorship of Hide/Seek.