Boycott hits Japanese art festival
Decision to remove the After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ exhibit triggers controversy at Aichi Triennale
Aichi Triennale 2019
A 'Comfort Woman' installation which was part of the After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ exhibit.
Photo: AFP / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aichi Triennale 2019 in Nagoya is one of Japan’s largest international art festivals. But organizers have been embroiled in a controversy after an exhibit entitled “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” was closed because of public outrage and “terror threats.”
Highlighting the plight of World War II “Comfort Women,” who were abducted to work in brothels established by the Japanese military, the centerpiece of the installation was a “Statue of a Girl Of Peace.”
South Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung created the work not only to criticize Japan but also to send a message to male-dominated South Korean society.
Last week, the exhibit was closed down after a series of “terror threats” by telephone and email, Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura told a news briefing.
The installation had been part of a mini-exhibition aimed at promoting freedom of expression.
“There have been a growing number of cases in recent years in which artists’ freedom of expression has been curbed over concerns that their pieces might offend some viewers,” Daisuke Tsuda, the artistic director for Aichi Triennale 2019, told the Asahi newspaper before the row broke out.
“We are providing an opportunity for audiences to view the exhibits and judge for themselves.”
News that the South Korean’s exhibit had been removed triggered a storm.
In an open letter sent to ARTnews on Tuesday, a group of artists called on the Aichi Triennale to remove their work in protest.
“The letter [was] signed by Tania Bruguera, Pia Camil, Claudia Martínez Garay, Regina José Galindo, and Javier Téllez, as well as an artist who served as a curator to this year’s Triennale, Pedro Reyes,” ARTnews said.
Read the letter here.