Brazil: Brazilian queer art exhibition cancelled after campaign by rightwing protesters

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

The controversy broke out when the Queermuseu – Queer Museum – exhibition at Santander Bank’s 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.

Brazil’s 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 GaudêncioFidelis told the Guardian. “This is a frightening moment in Brazilian life.” 

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 ‘Criança 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.

“The work is about bullying, about prejudice,” he said. Read more via the Guardian