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Aug 28 2019

CIMAM Calls For Reopening Of Aichi Censorship Exhibition

by Cassie Liu

The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art is the latest body to speak out against the Aichi Triennale’s closure of “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’,” which attracted threats for its inclusion of KIM SEO-KYUNG and KIM EUN-SUNG’s sculpture of a comfort woman. Photo by HG Masters for ArtAsiaPacific.

The Aichi Triennale faces mounting pressure as its controversial decision to shutter the exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” days after it opened in response to threats continues to draw international condemnation. On August 27, the Barcelona-based International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) released a statement expressing their deep concern at the closure of the show.

In the statement, CIMAM characterizes the decision as “a serious violation of freedom of expression,” and “a result of political threats and intimidation.” The Committee supports the previous demands made by the Triennale’s participating artists, including the reopening of the show. The statement emphasizes that the issue of the closure is “wider than” the security concerns, and “requires a meaningful reflection upon the curatorial premise behind the exhibition and clear recognition that the freedom of expression it sought to engender is now completely undermined.”

While “After ‘Freedom of Expression’” was shuttered on August 3 explicitly due to the threats, the exhibition had also drawn significant public ire from Japanese right-wing politicians and pundits, who targeted the display of Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung’s statue of a comfort woman in particular on the grounds that it offends national feeling. 

The full statement is reproduced below.

About the cancellation of the exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’”

CIMAM is greatly concerned about the 2019 Aichi Triennale’s decision to cancel the exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’.” The cancellation is an infringement of the artists’ freedom of expression, at the behest of politicians and the Mayer [sic] of Nagoya City, Takashi Kawamura, who made a direct request for the exhibition to be closed. On display in the exhibition was a collection of artworks that were excluded from museums in Japan or were included in exhibitions that were closed due to censorship or self-censorship. The closing of the exhibition itself is a serious violation of freedom of expression.

CIMAM requests that the demands of the great majority of artists participating in the triennial, as expressed in their statement on August 6th, are met. The artists requested three things: the immediate restoration of the Aichi Triennale 2019’s autonomy from political pressure and intimidation; the continuation of the exhibition under the assurance of safety for all its staff and visitors; and the establishment of a platform for free and vigorous discussion open to all, including the participating artists.

CIMAM strongly denounces that an exhibition has been closed as a result of political threats and intimidation. The issue is, however, wider than this and requires a meaningful reflection upon the curatorial premise behind the exhibition and clear recognition that the freedom of expression it sought to engender is now completely undermined.

CIMAM calls on the Aichi Triennial to honour the commitments it has made—namely to put in place the appropriate security arrangements for the exhibition to reopen, and to lead in facilitating the open platform for reflection and free and vigorous discussion that the artists have called for.

Cassie Liu is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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