An art exhibition featuring black actors chained and in cages to depict the horror of slavery has been closed by the Barbican gallery following a vociferous campaign of protest.
Officials from the arts venue decided to end an impasse with demonstrators who on Tuesday evening greeted the opening of Brett Bailey's Exhibit B at the Vaults in south London by blockading both the entrance and the road leading to the building.
Two hundred protesters with drums and placards demonstrated outside, prompting the attendance of officers from both the Metropolitan police and British transport police. The officers were summoned to address reports of a disturbance, but made no arrests.
The event was quickly cancelled.
Its censorship was hailed as a victory by campaigners who claimed 20,000 signatures on a protest petition against what they called complicit racism .
In a statement, the Barbican said:
Due to the extreme nature of the protest outside the Vaults, regrettably we have cancelled this evening's performance of Exhibit B as we could not guarantee the safety of performers, audiences and staff. We respect people's right to protest but are
disappointed that this was not done in a peaceful way as had been previously promised by campaigners. Further subsequent performances up to and including Saturday 27 have also been cancelled.
Offsite Comment: Censored whilst claiming to be uncensored
Protesters in Paris are now calling for the banning of an art show featuring black actors in cages that mimic the human zoos of the 19th century. It has already been scrapped in London due to a political correctness outcry.
The white South African artist Brett Bailey says his Exhibit B , which mimics the late 19th- and early 20th-century phenomenon of the human zoo , is meant to raise awareness of the racism of Europe's colonial past.
It is due to open in the French capital later this month, but it is now raising heckles among censorship campaigners such as those behind a French petition to have it stopped and who see it as an exhibition composed of degrading representations of
black people. A petition that has been signed by 14,000 people.
France's black campaign group CRAN claimed it was not calling for the exhibition to be stopped ...BUT... said that while:
It might be well-intentioned it reinforces stereotypes. It shows black people as passive and as victims, CRAN president Louis-Georges Tin told The Local. It never shows the struggle by black people for their own emancipation.
The two state-funded centres where the show is to take place, the Centquatre and the Theatre Gerard Philippe, vowed in an open letter this week that the show would go ahead and that they would not cave in to protesters who had not even seen the
A divisive art show featuring black actors in cages as a portrayal of 19th century human zoos had to be halted on Thursday after more than 120 aggressive protesters smashed their way into Paris theatre where it was being held.
Journalist Gilda Di Carli who was covering the event for The Local said:
At about 6:40pm things started getting lively as protesters, who numbered around 100 started arguing with police officers. Then the metal barrier was pushed over and everyone, protesters and journalists included, rushed up the stairs toward the entrance
of the theatre.
The police were lined up in front of the doors and there was a lot of shouting and chanting. The police were blowing their whistles as protesters chanted slogans such as No to racism and Cancel the show.
It took Paris police five minutes to break up the what theatre directors described as a riot, by which stage protesters had smashed one of the building's window panes and knocked over several barriers.
Two shows took place before theatre director Jean Bellorini decided to cancel other showings.
The controversial performance installation Exhibit B by Brett Bailey is set to begin a seven-day run on Sunday in Paris's Centquatre contemporary arts centre.
Campaigners wanting the exhibit banned and claim that the show is racist. Galvanised by the example of the UK where protesters succeeded in getting the show cancelled at London's Barbican theatre in September, the French Collective Against Exhibit B
continues to call for a boycott .
But the theatre refuses to back down to the harassment and says the show will go ahead in the name of both free speech and future dialogue over the many difficult issues the show raises.
Unfortunately, there'll be a heavy police presence, says theatre director Jose'-Manuel Goncalves: People, families, won't be able to circulate like they usually do. But the show will go on at Centquatre. He says:
This is not a racist work. If it were, there are laws in France which would ban it. It's an important work. As many people as possible have to see it.
Tickets are sold out, not just for tonight but for the week-long run.