An excerpt from David Wojnarowicz's video artwork A Fire In My Belly. ((The Museum of Modern Art))

A controversial video artwork that was removed from a Smithsonian exhibit last year is now on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry announced on Thursday that a complete version of David Wojnarowicz's A Fire in My Belly was among the museum's latest acquisitions.

The museum, which purchased both the original 13-minute video and a shorter seven-minute variation the artist created, has also already added the work to its contemporary art galleries.

New York artist Wojnarowicz made A Fire in My Belly after being diagnosed with HIV. In the work, he addresses the suffering of an AIDS victim, mortality and his own Catholic upbringing.

Wojnarowicz  died of complications from AIDS in 1992 at the age of 37.

Last fall, the Smithsonian's national Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., opened an exhibit titled Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. A four-minute version of A Fire in My Belly was included in the show, featured in a kiosk with other video art.

After being alerted to the video, the Catholic League and some conservative U.S. politicians publicly protested against the work, in particular against an 11-second section of the video that shows ants crawling over a crucifix. The group called the work hate speech against Christians.

The Smithsonian decided to remove the video, saying the protests were distracting from the overall exhibit.

That decision prompted a wave of condemnation, with the arts community blasting the withdrawal as censorship and organizing protest marches outside the Smithsonian. As another form of protest, some commercial galleries, including ones in Washington and Ottawa, put up prominent displays of A Fire in My Belly, playing the video on a continuous loop in their front windows.

A Fire in My Belly, which is being displayed at MoMA alongside other works made during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s, is the 13th artwork by Wojnarowicz to join the New York gallery's collection. Other new MoMA acquisitions include works by artists Harun Farocki, Andrea Fraser and Dorit Margreiter.


Several galleries, including ones in Washington and Ottawa, screened the controverisal art video A Fire in My Belly to protest its removal from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. ((Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press))