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Brazilian queer art exhibition cancelled after campaign by rightwing protesters

Santander bank decides to shut Queermuseu in Porto Alegre, a move Brazilian artists say represents dangerous censorship

A storm over artistic freedom and censorship has erupted in Brazil after an art exhibition at a multinational banks cultural centre was cancelled following a campaign by rightwing protesters.

The controversy broke out when the Queermuseu Queer Museum exhibition at Santander Banks cultural centre in Porto Alegre was abruptly closed on Sunday, a month ahead of schedule.

Supported by evangelical Christians, protestors from the Free Brazil Movement accused the exhibition which included 263 works from Brazilian greats such as Candido Portinari and Lygia Clark of promoting blasphemy, paedophilia and bestiality, charges its curator vigorously denied.

They are passing the limits of tolerance and we are giving them a response, said Silas Malafia, a leading evangelical pastor.

Brazils artistic community has attacked the protest as dangerous censorship in a country that lived through 21 years of military dictatorship.

It is an exhibition that deals with issues of identity, the curator GaudncioFidelis told the Guardian. This is a frightening moment in Brazilian life.

The exhibition had been open almost a month when protestors from the Free Brazil Movement a group of free market liberals known for organising street demonstrations calling for the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff began picketing its doors.

A video by protesters that has been watched over a million times described one of the works, one of two paintings by artist Bia Leite from a series called Criana Viada, or Gay Children, as practically child prostitution.

The children are fully clothed in the painting and the accusation that it promotes paedophilia is unfounded, Fidelis said.

Thework is about bullying, about prejudice, he said.

Fidelis said that a painting which protestors said depicted an act of bestiality was actually a work about colonialsm. Another work by Fernando Baril called Crossing Jesus Christ Goddess Shiva was also accused of being blasphemous by the protestors.

Fidelis found out the exhibition had been cancelled when Santander published a notice on its Facebook page on Sunday.

We sincerely apologise to anyone who felt offended by any work that was part of the exhibition, the bank said. Santander had previously fully approved all the works, Fidelis said.

The Free Brazil Movement has grown in influence since helping to oust Rousseff on charges of breaking budget rules and has adopted increasingly rightwing positions, such as advocating freeing up gun ownership laws.

Kim Kataguiri, one of its leaders, said he saw no contradiction in free-market liberals attacking an art exhibition, arguing that they had called for a boycott of the exhibition, not censorship.

We did the boycott because the exhibition involved public money in the promotion of bestiality, paedophilia and offences to the Christian faith, Kataguiri told the Guardian.

Kataguiri said gay friends of his had also objected to the Queer Museum.

The exhibition shows gays as bestial and aggressive beings, he said. Brazilians always had Christian values, but now they have the courage to defend them against the noisy minority who attack us.

Supporters of the exhibition have organised a counter-attack, and 34,000 have signed a petition demanding it reopen. A demonstration was organised for Tuesday afternoon by LBGT groups.

The mobilisation is important because it shows that Porto Alegre will not be a backwards community, said Luciano Victorino, 23, a law student and organiser of the Porto Alegre Without Prejudice Facebook group, one of the organisers.

Alvaro Clark, son of the late Lygia Clark, a prominent Brazilian artist who had three works in the exhibition, was flying down from Rio de Janeiro to take part.

Lygia would detest it, he said of the closure. Civilised Brazil is much more than this.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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