Row erupts as East London gallery accused of showing ‘alt-right’ and ‘racist’ art

LD50 defends programme as promoting the “free exploration of ideas” while campaigners call for its closure


LD50, an East London gallery that has come under fire for promoting fascism, says the cultural sphere has become the preserve of the Left and anyone who opposes this political viewpoint is “now publicly vilified, delegitimated [sic] and intimidated with menaces”.

The statement, posted on the gallery’s website on 21 February, comes amid calls for the space to be shut down over an exhibition and series of talks it hosted about the alt-right movement. Last summer, the Dalston-based gallery, which is run by Lucia Diego, held a “neoreaction conference” featuring speakers including Peter Brimelow, Brett Stevens and Iben Thranholm.

Brimelow is known as an anti-immigration activist and author and is the president of the VDARE Foundation, a white nationalist organisation based in the US. Stevens edits a far-right website and has previously praised the racist mass murderer Anders Breivik, while Thranholm is a Danish journalist who writes about Christianity and theology and is an outspoken critic of European immigration policy.

LD50 then organised an exhibition, titled Amerika, that included Pepe memes (Pepe the Frog is an online cartoon character that has been branded a hate symbol after racists depicted him as Adolf Hitler and a member of the Ku Klux Klan) and a cardboard cut-out of Donald Trump.

The show prompted artists and campaigners to start the Tumblr blog, Shut Down LD50 Gallery, which says the gallery “is using the cover of the contemporary art scene and academia to legitimise the spread of materials [that have drawn on fascist traditions] and the establishment of a culture of hatred”. The blog says that LD50 “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade”. The gallery has posted all criticism on its website, including Tweets by artists denouncing its programme.

LD50 has defended its programme, saying it has found itself in recent months “increasingly interested in the political ruptures in the West: America and closely observed events there throughout the extraordinary and dramatic election cycle”.

The gallery says it presented “a very liberal audience” with a speaker who was knowledgeable in “alt-right and NRx [neoreactionary] discourses” to create “a dialogue between two different and contrasting ideologies”. Of its exhibition, LD50 says it “explored some of the topics currently faced by our generation”, including themes of “memetics, the occult, male frustration, artificial intelligence [and] algorithms”.

The gallery maintains that “the role of art is to provide a vehicle for the free exploration of ideas, even and perhaps especially where these are challenging, controversial or indeed distasteful”. It continues: “Art should have exemplified this willingness to discuss new ideas, but it has just become apparent to us that this sphere now (and perhaps for the last few years) stands precisely for the opposite of this.”