Santander Bank’s cultural centre in Porto Alegre closed art exhibition ‘Queermuseu – Cartografias da Diferençana Arte Brasileira’ (Queer museum – Cartographies of Difference in Brazilian Art) on 10 September 2017, a month ahead of schedule. The decision came as Terça Livre, a small Christian group, published a video on Facebook, criticizing the artworks in the exhibition because they allegedly contained allusions to “paedophilia”, “bestiality” and “blasphemy”. The video and campaign was then shared and boosted by Movimento Brasil Livre (Free Brasil Movement), a group with over 2.5 million subscribers, which helped it garner over 1.5 million views.
The allegations sparked a wave of criticism against the centre, which ultimately decided to close the exhibition and issue a public apology to “anyone who felt offended by any work that was part of the exhibition”, reported The Guardian.
Out of the 263 artworks, amongst which were creations by prominent artists Candido Portinari and Lygia Clark, the most controversial contained images such as those of fully-dressed children with words like “transvestite” or “gay child” spray-painted on them, sacramental wafers with words such as “vagina” and “tongue” written on them, and a monkey in the Virgin Mary’s arms, reported The New York Times.
The Terça Livre activists, joined by religious authorities and some members of the LGBT community who felt offended by how its members seem to be portrayed, called for a boycott of the exhibition. Exhibition curator Gaudêncio Fidelis stated that these reactions were borne out of fear, because this exhibition “deals with issues of identity”.