OSAKA – Sculptures adorning the sidewalks along Osaka’s Midosuji street were found clad in red one morning in July, sparking speculation as to who did it and why.
Osaka City Hall received dozens of phone calls, including some from the Tokyo metropolitan area, a city official said. One caller even half-jokingly criticized the city after staff removed the colorful attire, saying, “You guys don’t understand a joke.”
The mystery also took a twist after footage from a security video was released that purportedly showed the person who may have decorated the figures, which include works by such artists as Kotaro Takamura and Auguste Rodin.
The city was first alerted to the gag around 9 a.m. on July 25. On a roughly 1 km stretch of Midosuji, starting just across the river from City Hall, 19 sculptures were found to have been dressed in red.
Whoever carried out the deed apparently bought the costumes in a shop and then dyed them. Some also had color-coordinated belts around their waists. A 39-year-old man who saw some of the statues said, “They matched perfectly!”
But city officials were apparently not of the same opinion and disrobed them immediately. “We thought it was a terrible prank,” said one official.
As soon as media got wind of the commotion, the city started getting comments both for and against the prank from residents and people in other parts of the country as well.
Initially, many criticized the city and said they wanted to see the clothed sculptures, but an increasing number of comments were also received supporting the removal of the clothes, city officials said.
One person who claimed to be an artist was quoted as saying, “It’s wrong to distort the idea of a work by putting clothes on it.”
As to why they were clad in red, a city official said, “We have no idea. We thought only a naked Venus was given clothes but that didn’t seem to be the case.”
A security camera taped a person on a bicycle near some of the figures soon after 4 a.m. on July 25. One witness also said some of the figures had already been dressed up by around 4:30 a.m., suggesting it was carried out over a short span of time in the early morning, when there was little traffic about.
Osaka Mayor Kunio Hirama- tsu, sounding curious, said, “Honestly speaking, I myself wanted to see them. There’s that sense of mystery and I would like to meet the person who did it.”
Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto also commented on the mystery.
“I would like to see acts of artistic expression like this carried out more openly,” he said.
According to the city, the main thoroughfare has a total of 29 statues standing along it. The first ones were installed back in 1992 with the aim of making Midosuji a center of culture and art.
Since no damage was done to the statues, the city said it has no plans to file a criminal complaint.