Peru: Exhibition cut short due to controversial LGBT artworks

The fifth edition of contemporary art exhibition ‘Outside’ was cut short by venue organisers French Alliance of Arequipa due to three works by Peruvian artist Jesús Álvarez that made reference to the city of Arequipa’s plurality and diversity by pointing to its “queer nature”, reported Sin Fronteras on 27 December 2016.

According to exhibition curator Milko Torres, the organisers, who had knowledge of and had previously approved the contents of the exhibition, gathered the curators and artists and told them that the venue had received many complaints of people who felt offended by the artworks and that they could either continue the exhibition and remove the controversial material, or cut the exhibition short.

The artists refused to remove Jesús Álvarez’s works, which according to them would “mutilate” the exhibition, thus the organisers issued a statement on 21 December 2016 announcing the exhibition would close earlier than scheduled. The exhibition, ‘Outside 5: Identidad inconclusa, en crisis, en construcción’ (‘Outside 5: Unfinished identity, in crisis, in construction’) was originally scheduled to be open from 7-30 December.

The controversial artworks were a reinterpretation of the city flag in pink broidery, an infographic with a reinterpretation of the city emblem and the words “Arequipa es cochollo” (a local word meaning “coward”, but also “gay”) and a video of a hooded man simulating fellatio on the city cathedral’s tower with the city anthem playing as a soundtrack.

Complainants unknown
Torres said in an interview with Lima Gris that he believes the move was an act of censorship motivated by the demands of “very powerful people” who wanted to end, “once and for all”, the fifth edition of an exhibition that has always been uncomfortable to them.

“Remember that Arequipa is the most conservative and traditional city of Peru,” he said.

Torres says neither he nor the artists were ever told who it was that made those complaints or the arguments that were presented to oppose the exhibition.

Acknowledging that the curators had been discussing the issue from the start with Florent Voiret, director of the French Alliance of Arequipa, and Gonzalo Ávila, its cultural affairs manager, Torres said that “yesterday it was personally communicated to us that the decision to censor surpasses them and that the names of the people who exerted a strong and effective pressure to attain this grave case of censorship will not be made public”.

French Alliance of Arequipa official statement on shutting down Outside 5 early

Top photo: Outside 5 event page/Facebook


» Sin Fronteras – 27 December 2016
Exhibition at the French Alliance was censored for tackling homosexuality issue

» Literalgia – 22 December 2016
Arequipa: Artistic exhibition which tackled gender and homosexuality issues censored

» – 22 December 2016
Another case of censorship to artists in the country, this time in the French Alliance of Arequipa

» Lima Gris – 21 December 2016
Art exhibition at French Alliance of Arequipa censored

» Facebook – 20 December 2016
Milko Torres’ statement

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