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The National Portrait Gallery is not currently displaying the Nelson Shanks painting of President Bill Clinton that made headlines recently when Shanks revealed he put a hidden Monica Lewinsky reference into the portrait.
“The work by Shanks is in storage,” Bethany Bentley, head of communications at the gallery, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The portrait has been off view in the museum since 2009.”
Is this all a Clinton-spiracy? Was it taken down, banished from public view because of the blue dress shadow that Shanks painted into the portrait?
Not according to Bentley. She said the museum was first made aware of the reference when Philly.com published their interview with Shanks this week, six years after the painting was put in storage. “It was rotated off view as we are now displaying a loaned work of Clinton in the exhibition about America’s presidents,” says Bentley.
The Clinton painting that is currently on view is by artist Chuck Close and is on loan from owners Ian and Annette Cumming. The Shanks portrait is one of 10 formal posed portraits of Clinton that the National Portrait Gallery owns. There are 55 Clinton images in total, including drawings, caricatures and covers of magazines.
Photo Credit: “William Jefferson Clinton” by Chuck Close, oil on canvas, 2006. Lent by Ian and Annette Cumming © Chuck Close
Bentley says they rotate the official portraits of the presidents and decide which one to use when they rehang the gallery. “Right now we don’t have plans to rehang the gallery for quite some time, so we have not made any selections for what will or will not go up,” says Bentley. She said nobody has pressured them to remove the Shanks painting from the selection process.
When asked if she thinks the Lewinsky reference will affect any future decision to hang the painting, Bentley replied, “I can’t speculate on what will go up on view. The decision is made by our curatorial staff and each piece is considered carefully.”
President Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Shanks could not be reached for comment.