Sep 29 2021

President of AICA Japan Steps Down Amid Harassment Scandal

by Pamela Wong

Exterior view of Sophia University, Tokyo. Image via Facebook.

Tokyo-based art historian and academic Michio Hayashi, who has been embroiled in a harassment lawsuit since April, resigned as president of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) in Japan on September 18 before quitting the Association altogether, as confirmed by AICA’s standing committee to ArtAsiaPacific. Hayashi is still employed as a professor at Sophia University despite allegations of harassing a former female student over a period of more than a decade. 

While AICA Japan has not issued an official statement on its website and social media channels concerning Hayashi’s resignation, his member page on AICA’s website has been taken down. In an email to AAP, AICA’s standing committee said that Hayashi resigned so as not “to trouble AICA Japan.” The committee attached a response previously published by Bijutsu Techo on September 27: “Although we do not have any more information than what has been reported in the media, we deeply regret the incident and hope the human rights of those accused of harassment—of any kind and any case—will be protected . . . The Association is re-evaluating the ethics of art critics . . . and discussing new policies for the future. We set up a committee to establish rules to prevent harassment and to examine existing methods for issuing statements and joint opinions. While this case is currently disputed, we take seriously the fact that the former president was in a position to exercise disproportionate power, and we will continue to monitor harassment cases in the art world.” Hayashi’s successor at AICA is yet to be selected.

The unnamed former student filed a complaint against Hayashi on April 30, and requests JPY 22 million (USD 198,000) in damages. According to a Bijutsu Techo report dated September 20, the claimant was taught by Hayashi in the second semester of 2004, and during a summer seminar trip in 2007, Hayashi started asking her out despite being married, periodically demanding she have sex with him from 2007 to 2018. In 2020, Hayashi’s wife successfully sued the woman for committing adultery with her husband. 

The April 30 filing also includes accusations of Hayashi’s abuse of power in the academic field. The woman claims she worked as Hayashi’s assistant until she finished her postgraduate studies, but has not received any payment. She says she proofread most of Hayashi’s English-language essays and AICA’s 2016 statement “In Defense of Freedom of Expression.” 

In his legal response to the complaint, Hayashi claimed that he “was merely having a free love affair with an independent adult.” He later told Bijutsu Techo that while he regrets his past “mistake,” the female student was “making up stories” against him. 

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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