365 Days of Art: November 6 – NEA Withdraws Grant for AIDS Exhibition

Cover of catalog for exhibition, portraying weak-looking handprint.
Exhibition announcement of controversial show

November 6, 1989

The New York Times reports that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has cancelled a grant for a show about AIDS, called Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing. The withdrawal of funds reportedly stems from an essay in the catalogue that criticizes two members of Congress and a cardinal of the Catholic church, for their opposition to educating Americans on how not to contract AIDS.

This is the second time in six months that the NEA has cancelled previously-approved money for an art exhibition. A culture wars controversy over the cancellation of Robert Mapplethorpe’s exhibition of photographs has not even died down when this news is reported.