Curator of Queer Art Exhibition Called Before Brazil’s Senate

Gaudêncio Fidelis, the curator of “Queermuseu”—an exhibition dedicated to queer art that was staged at Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre in Brazil earlier this year—has been ordered to appear in front of Brazil’s Senate on Thursday, November 23. Fidelis came under fire from right-wing groups who targeted the exhibition, claiming it promoted blasphemy, pedophilia, and child prostitution. Conservatives denounced the show and vandalized the building, which led Santander Cultural to close the show early.

According to Elisa Wouk Almino of Hyperallergic, since the exhibition was shut down, Fidelis has been under investigation for the “mistreatment of children and teenagers” due to his involvement with the show. Far-right critics of “Queermuseu” believe the exhibition “[perverts] the notion of the family.” One of the leaders of the Free Brazil Movement, a right-wing party that has been responsible for attacking cultural events across Brazil this past year, told The Guardian that a boycott of the show was initiated because the exhibition involved public money in the promotion of “bestiality, pedophilia, and offences to the Christian faith.”

Featuring eighty-five artists, including Lygia Clark, Cândido Portinari, José Leonilson, and 263 artworks, the show was the country’s largest-ever exhibition of queer art. Fidelis had not been consulted before Santander Cultural decided to close the show early, which prompted him to accuse the venue of shutting down public dialogue.

The curator will now face an inquiry by CPI, the Brazilian congress’s investigative committee, which is led by senator Magno Malta, an evangelical pastor with ties to the Party of the Republic. Fidelis will be taken to the Senate by the federal police, which, according to him, is unprecedented. Police escorts are usually only required for fugitives and Fidelis claims he has been cooperating with the government since the show closed in September. The reason for the unnecessary show of force seems to be the curator’s failure to appear in front of the Senate last October. He had filed a writ of habeas corpus asking for an extension, which the government denied. Fidelis claims that he was not given enough time to secure legal representation and travel to Brasília.

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition denouncing the government’s abusive treatment of Fidelis. It states that CPI is “[prioritizing] the persecution of artists, curators, producers, among others, to the detriment of the investigation of real cases, where children and adolescents are effectively at risk. The conniving attitude of the senators in the face of this unprecedented persecution of Brazilian artists borders on irresponsibility and embarrasses Brazil.”

The CPI has also summoned artist Wagner Schwartz to appear before the Senate. His nude performance, La Bête, sparked a public outcry after a video surfaced of spectators, including a young girl and her mother, manipulating his naked body at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo in September.

The investigation of “Queermuseu” has been viewed by the arts community as part of an escalating war on culture. In October, hundreds of arts professionals signed an open letter protesting the frequent violations against cultural expression, which have included attempts to censor and shut down exhibitions, physical and verbal assaults on museum personnel, and the use of social media to campaign against and harass people who have voiced their support of artists, curators, shows, and cultural institutions.