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Far-right protesters shut down Brazilian queer art show

Queermuseu was closed a month before schedule after the so-called Free Brazil Movement campaign, but LGBT groups are fighting back

An exhibition of queer art at the Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which has been open since August, has been shut down early due to far-right and evangelical Christian protests.

Queermuseum: Queer Tactics Toward Non-Heteronormative Curating was the first major exhibition for queer art in the country. It was described as “diversity observed under the aspects of variety, plurality, and difference”, and included 263 works from Brazilian contemporary artists like Candido Portinari and Lygia Clark.

The show was meant to last until the end of September but was closed abruptly September 10. Protesters from the conservative group Free Brazil Movement, also supported by evangelical Christians, campaigned against the exhibit, claiming that it promoted paedophilia, bestiality and blasphemy.

Videos of the homophobic demonstrations show protesters describing artist Bia Leite’s “Gay Children” piece as “practically child prostitution”. Curator Gaudêncio Fidelis told the Guardian the claim was unfounded, and the artwork is “about bullying, about prejudice”. Another piece was alleged to depict bestiality, but Fidelis asserts it’s about colonialism.

As Hyperallergic reports, the gallery building had been defaced with spray paint reading “They are anti-Christs” and “Santander supports paedophilia”. Visitors to the space had also reportedly been assaulted by protesters.

Fidelis only heard that the exhibition had been closed when Santander Cultural, a gallery sponsored by the bank of the same name, posted a statement on Facebook. The centre had pre-approved all works. “We sincerely apologise to anyone who felt offended by any work that was part of the exhibition,” the bank said.

The statement continued: “We heard the complaints and understand that some of the works in the exhibition Queermuseu disrespected symbols, beliefs, and people, which is not in line with our view of the world. When art is not capable of being inclusive and generating positive reflection, it loses its greatest purpose, which is to elevate the human condition.”

Congressman for Rio Grande do Sul, Marcel van Hattem, who was a leader of the campaign against the exhibit, has asserted that the art space should pay back donated public money. Porto Alegre Culture Secretary Luciano Alabarse said the closure “makes everybody lose”, as the Washington Post reports.

“What is at stake here is freedom of expression. People don’t want a dialogue anymore. They want to win arguments by shouting louder,” Alabarse added.

A counter-protest has been organised outside the Santander Cultural by local LGBT groups. 34,000 have signed a petition demanding it reopen.