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France -South Africa

Artists ask Paris court to ban 'humiliating' Exhibit B

Le Centquatre contemporary arts centre in Paris
Le Centquatre contemporary arts centre in Paris Jean-Christophe Benoist/Wikimedia Commons

An artists’ collective on Monday asked a Paris court to order a halt to the controversial Exhibit B show, which its members judge to be racist and degrading.


“This morning we submitted a complaint calling for the suspension of this event which is highly controversial”, Hosni Maati, lawyer for the collective, announced at a press conference.

“This is about dignity, and it is on that basis that we have lodged our demand”, he added.

The creator of the show, white South African artist Brett Bailey argues that his intention with Exhibit B is to denounce racism and colonialism but the work has sparked strong reactions among some anti-racist activists.

He uses 12 living tableaux which evoke the ‘human zoos’ of the late 19th century, in which black people were exhibited in cages.

Exhibit B is scheduled to run at the famous Le Centquatre theatre in northern Paris until the end of this week, though on Sunday night, around 200 people gathered in front of the theatre to protest against the show.

A spokesperson for the collective also announced that a petition launched against the show had been signed by 20,000 people.

Exhibit B showed black people in “undignified and humiliating postures” declared writer Claude Ribbe of the collective, adding that it was not a work of art “because if it was, its universal message would convince everyone”.

There were demonstrations against the show last week when it ran at the Théâtre Gérard Philippe in Saint Denis, north of Paris.

In September the show was cancelled in London, after protests.

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