The Washington Times – Smithsonian to mark Watergate 50th anniversary with political art show

From The Washington Times

Images of former President Richard Nixon — ranging from mixed-media caricatures to political cartoons — will launch a 50th anniversary exhibit of the Watergate Hotel break-in at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery this month.

“Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” spotlights the June 17, 1972, break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which led to Nixon’s resignation two years later. It represents other key figures from the scandal as well.

Kate Clarke Lemay, the gallery’s acting senior historian, is curating the exhibit of 25 art objects, which will be on display from March 25 to Sept. 5.

“More than ever, people are paying attention to the ways in which the press, including social media, reports on politicians and those with power and influence,” Ms. Lemay said. “Although conceived as an exhibition to look at the Watergate scandal on its 50th anniversary, this show feels timely and relevant to today’s political issues and debates.”

Historically, the exhibit illustrates the origins of the nation’s ongoing obsession with Nixon and Watergate, she said.

“The nation has been fascinated by Watergate for more than 50 years,” the curator said. “The incident and its aftermath have evolved in the decades since into a uniquely American meme, buoyed by depictions in film and pop culture and regular reference in modern political discourse.”

Period artists featured in the exhibit include Richard Avedon, Marisol Escobar, George Guisti and Dirck Halstead. Other works were produced by prominent illustrators and political cartoonists of the era, such as Jack Davis, Patrick Oliphant and Edward Sorel.

Nixon, who died in 1991, is featured in a large share of the exhibit’s period pieces, which also include the original cover art from 12 Time magazine issues.

In addition to Nixon, the exhibit features portraits of several others involved in the scandal: FBI agent Mark Felt, who was the “Deep Throat” informant for The Washington Post’s reports; Sen. Barry Goldwater; Post publisher Katherine Graham; Sen. Barbara Jordan; presidential secretary Rose Mary Woods; and White House Counsel John Dean.

James Grossman, executive director of the D.C.-based American Historical Association, said the exhibit underscores a lack of progress in presidential accountability over the past half-century.

“Fifty years and we still have not made presidents legally accountable for the preservation of White House records in any way that is effective or enforceable,” Mr. Grossman said. “Nor have we adequately protected the electoral procedures essential to a functioning democracy.”

The gallery said in a press release that the art objects provide a visual narrative of the political scandal and fallout.

One section tells the story of then-Attorney General John Mitchell ordering the kidnapping of his wife, Martha, in the early days after the break-in.

“In this exhibition, art and portraiture shed new light on the story of the break-in at the Watergate complex and the ensuing scandal by delving into biography and the consequences of people’s actions,” Ms. Lemay said.

Read the full article here.