LD50: Protesters to march on Dalston art gallery that hosted alt-right exhibition

LD50 in Tottenham Road, Dalston, has been accused of promoting far-right extremists. Picture: Dieter

LD50 in Tottenham Road, Dalston, has been accused of promoting far-right extremists. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Artists and campaigners will march on a controversial Dalston art gallery this weekend because they claim it supports neo-Nazis.

LD50 in Tottenham Road, Dalston. Picture: Dieter Perry

LD50 in Tottenham Road, Dalston. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

LD50 in Tottenham Road last year hosted a series of extreme right-wing speakers, including one who has openly praised mass murderer and white supremacist Anders Breivik.

The gallery also held an exhibition that ended last month featuring art from the alt-right – a far-right, pro-Trump movement that rejects mainstream conservatism.

In response, a “Shutdown LD50” campaign has been formed by artists who want the gallery out of Hackney for good.

LD50, which opened in 2015, held the “neoreaction conference” over the summer, discussing the anti-democratic movement of that name. The conference was, according to its own guest speaker Brett Stevens, hidden “behind a veil of secrecy to prevent the usual suspects (leftists and other neurotics) from attacking”.

Stevens runs amerika.org – a blog claiming that “with equality, quality is destroyed” – and has spoken of the “bravery” of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who killed 77 people in 2011.

Breivik, who is currently serving a 21-year sentence, quoted Stevens’ writing in a manifesto published immediately before the killings.

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Another speaker, Peter Brimelow, has been described by US anti-fascist organisation Southern Poverty Law Center as a “leading anti-immigrant activist”.

Last week the gallery had a pink swastika painted on its door and its owner Lucia Diego was criticised by a group of artists on Facebook after a private conversation was shared in which she said: “I’m not even sure if I disagree with [Donald Trump’s] Muslim ban.”

In a statement, Shutdown LD50! organiser Andrew Osborne wrote: “Campaigners wish to make clear that their hate speech cannot be ‘free speech’ when it advocates violence in the pursuit of authoritarianism and racial supremacy.

“It is imperative that this is not allowed to continue, that the gallery is shut down, and those responsible for it understand that their views are not welcome in our diverse city.

“The materials produced by the gallery, and the culture they promote, are a real threat to many of the communities living in Dalston.”

Mr Osborne, who works at the Royal College of Art, dismissed the possibility the gallery’s interest in the alt-right was ironic, calling its work during 2016 “one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade”.

Ms Diego defended her gallery’s exhibition and choice of speakers and said the attacks against them came from ignorance.

She said: “We feel that the exceptionally aggressive, militant and hyperbolic reaction this has provoked vindicates our suspicion that at some point, as a society, we have drifted into a cultural echo chamber.

“A position on the left has become the only permissible orientation for cultural practitioners and apparently any who dare eschew this constraint are now publicly vilified, delegitimated and intimidated with menaces.

“Our position has always been 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 for some individuals to contemplate.

“We had thought that if it was to be found in any discipline, then 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.”

Ms Diego said the gallery tried to explore contemporary discourse with its programmes and the alt-right and neoreaction works were done as a result of the “political ruptures” in the US during the “extraordinary and dramatic” election.

She added: “We presented a very liberal audience with a speaker knowledgeable of that sphere creating in that way a dialogue between two different and contrasting ideologies and the possibility for discussion between the speaker and amongst ourselves.”