As soon as the National Portrait Gallery controversy began, and particularly after details of the internal dissent were leaked, we knew it was only a matter of time before the calls to remove the Smithsonian‘s man in charge, Wayne Clough, would begin. And so has happened in the pages of the Washington Post this week, with the paper’s staff writer Philip Kennicott saying the Institution’s director made such poor decisions in handling the initial controversy, as well as the recent debacle over artist AA Bronson‘s desire to have his piece pulled from the Gallery as well, and helped reignite culture wars along the way, that proves he’s no longer fit to lead. Kennicott poses a strong argument, and one not at all unexpected given the current climate surrounding the organization. However, on the devil’s advocate side, one could argue that this has just been a slight bump on the road in Clough’s just-over two year-old career at the Smithsonian, which has been perhaps positively marked by his having to make tough administrative decisions to help keep the Institution and its various appendages financially afloat, from major cuts to revenue generators. While the National Portrait Gallery situation is indeed unfortunate, and left a lot of egg on a lot of faces, is it enough to completely kill Clough’s credibility and future there? We don’t have the answers, but like we said, we’d been expecting the questions for a while.
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