Right-wing activists claim nude performance at MAM São Paulo is ‘paedophilia’. City mayor backs them

Wagner Schwartz

Protests and counter protests have erupted outside the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM) following a nude performance. Activists from the right-wing political group Movimento Brasil Livre (MBL) accuse the museum of promoting paedophilia, while many from São Paulo's arts community have condemned MBL for spreading misinformation and a politically-motivated strain of puritanism.

Among the more lurid claims, the facts of the Wagner Schwartz's artwork are a little more prosaic: as part of his contribution to the annual survey exhibition of emerging art, 35º Panorama da Arte Brasileira, Schwartz lay naked in the museum while visitors were invited to interact with him (moving limbs and the like). In a video posted on social media a child is seen briefly touching the artist's hand and leg.

Marco Feliciano, a pastor, called the work 'revolting' and those involved 'destroyers of the family.'

While bubbling away on social media, the controversy gained traction after São Paolo’s mayor appeared on video siding with those condemning the museum. João Doria, tipped for presidency in the future, accused the museum of abusing their creative freedom and promoting ‘artificial relationships’. Dozens of MBL activists assembled outside the museum on Friday. A lively gathering of those offering solidarity to the artist and museum were present at the institution throughout the weekend. Fernanda Brenner, artistic director of the São Paulo non-profit institution Pivô, accused Doria of supporting ‘hate and repression’.

Over the weekend rumours spread that Schwartz had been killed: these have been confirmed as unfounded, though the artist has not been seen since the staging of the work.

In a statement MAM note that signage had been posted warning visitors to the nature of the performance and that the girl was accompanied at all times. The work was a performative response to Lygia Clark’s iconic 'Bicho' sculptures.

MBL was behind protests that caused the closing of a survey of queer contemporary art at Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre. The group emerged in 2014 as grassroots opposition to then president Dilma Rousseff and the Workers' Party. Brenner added 'Stop this madness before Brazil falls completely under an authoritarian and theocratic regime.'

2 October 2017