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Dec 14 2018

Women’s Rights Group Leads #MeToo Protest Against Nobuyoshi Araki

by Julee WJ Chung

On December 7, the Angry Asian Girls Association led a protest against C/O Berlin’s exhibition of works by photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. Image via the Angry Asian Girls Association’s Facebook.

The #MeToo movement doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. On December 7, a group of women’s rights advocates, the Angry Asian Girls Association (AAGA), led a protest against C/O Berlin’s solo exhibition of photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. The event was held in solidarity with former model Kaori, who, in an online post published in April, detailed several instances of exploitation and mistreatment, including the dissemination and sale of her nude images without consent or remuneration, that occurred during her and Araki’s 15-year-long professional relationship. “He treated me like an object,” Kaori wrote, adding that she felt the need to speak up and push back against the corrosive abuse of his power as part of the #MeToo movement. 

AAGA stated in a Facebook post that they had delivered a formal complaint to the gallery, intended to bring attention to Araki’s gross mistreatment of the model.  Chief curator Felix Hoffmann skirted the issue in his response, stating: “By 2001, when Araki started working with Kaori, Araki had published more than 400 books already. The model should have had the information about his work [. . .] Photos of the model Kaori will not be shown [in the exhibition].”

On the day of the protest, participants were seen carrying signs that read “Are you sure your knowledge is correct?” referencing the title of Kaori’s online post. With regards to the event, Kaori said to AAGA, “I sincerely hope that the art gallery clarifies their intention of holiding a large-scale Araki exhibition of this time in history. My series of confessions is not about rejecting the critics on Mr. Araki and his work, but about how art and photography is defined.”

Days after the protest, C/O Berlin responded in a statement sent to ArtNews: “Nobuyoshi Araki’s work provokes strong emotions and polarizes viewers—in Germany today just as it did in Japan when it first appeared. C/O Berlin takes critique of artists and artistic work in the context of the international #MeToo debate very seriously. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to join this debate by writing their opinions in our Guest Book or sharing their views online with the hashtag #arakidebate.”

In August, Polish feminist group Żubryce Mówimy Nie (“Bison Ladies, We Say No”) also demonstrated against the display of Araki’s photographs in the group exhibition “Foreign Bodies” at Warsaw’s Raster Gallery. 

Julee WJ Chung is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.

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

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