Japanese Embassy withdraws approval for Vienna art exhibition

The Japanese Embassy in Austria has withdrawn its approval for an art exhibition in Vienna to mark 150 years of bilateral diplomatic ties, deeming some politically and socially critical art works inappropriate, according to the embassy and organizers.
The "Japan Unlimited" exhibition, held since late September with the help of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, features some works on the theme of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis as well as Japan's wartime history.
Some artists participating in the Austrian event had also taken part in the "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" exhibition in Nagoya that had sparked controversy.
The withdrawal of approval came after an unidentified Japanese lawmaker who learned of the artists' participation in both the Nagoya and Vienna exhibitions asked the Japanese Foreign Ministry to look into the matter, according to Japan Unlimited curator Marcello Farabegoli.
The embassy said its officials who visited the exhibition concluded it does not facilitate mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries and notified the organizers of the retraction of its approval on Oct 30.
The exhibition, scheduled to run through Nov 24, will now go on without the official logo indicating the event as a project for the anniversary year.
Art works at the exhibition included one showing blood depicted in the shape of Japan's rising sun symbol streaming down from radiation protection gear and a video of a person posing as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologizing to China and South Korea for the country's wartime aggression.
A piece based on a picture of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, and Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the Allied Powers that occupied Japan after World War II, also satirizes Japan's postwar relations with the United States.
The Vienna exhibition was meant to highlight some of Japan's "most active artists engaging with the limits and opportunities of politically and socially critical art in their country," according to the curator's website.
Japan's "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" exhibition, held as part of the Aichi Triennale 2019 art festival between Aug 1 and Oct 14, prompted a backlash in some quarters as it featured a statue symbolizing "comfort women" who were forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels.
The exhibition ran for 10 days in total due to a flurry of protests and threats.
Japan's culture agency announced in September its decision not to provide state subsidies for the Aichi art festival, saying it was not informed in advance that the exhibition could trigger an outcry that would jeopardize the event's smooth operation.

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