Three days after it opened on Aug. 1, a section of the Aichi Triennale 2019 arts festival, which is taking place in and around the city of Nagoya, was closed due to controversy over one of its exhibits and an anonymous threat.
The section is titled "After 'Freedom of Expression?’", which is meant to convey the idea that the 20 or so works contained therein have been removed from public display in the past due to "censorship or self-censorship," according to the organizers. The main piece of contention is “Statue of a Girl of Peace,” a South Korean work that represents “comfort women.”
Other pieces have sparked outrage, including one that includes a burnt image of what appears to be Emperor Hirohito but, with the exception of the weeklies and tabloids, which tend to trade in sensationalism for its own sake, the overall media reaction has been one of bemusement. Here was an exhibit filled with artworks that had already caused pushback in Japan, and it was shut down for just that reason. Was the whole endeavor designed to prove its own point, an elaborate attempt at conceptual art in and of itself?