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“Comfort woman” exhibit in Japan suspended after gallery received object presumed to be firecracker

A Japanese exhibition of a statue symbolizing victims of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military was effectively suspended three days after its opening.

According to a Kyodo News report Thursday, Citizen’s Gallery Sakae, the public gallery in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, where the statue is being exhibited, announced that morning that it was temporarily closing until Sunday.

The original schedule had been to exhibit the statue from Tuesday to Sunday as one of the artworks from the exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?” The latest decision, which came three days after the exhibition’s opening, means the gallery is to be closed for the remaining scheduled period.

Kyodo referred to it as a “de facto suspension” of the exhibition.

That same morning, a package containing what is believed to have been a firecracker was delivered to Citizen’s Gallery Sakae.

The gallery director discovered the explosive after opening the package that had been delivered. The gallery’s employees were temporarily evacuated, and the city of Nagoya announced a temporary suspension of all use of the gallery.

“After ‘Freedom of Exhibition?’” was reshowing some of the work presented at a special exhibition under the same title staged as part of the Aichi Triennale, Japan’s biggest international art show, from August to October 2019.

The Aichi Triennale’s “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?” exhibition was also suspended after three days due to attacks and threats by right-wingers. The exhibition just managed to reopen three days before its scheduled closing date.

Members of the executive committee for “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?” — which exhibited artwork that directly challenged taboos in Japanese society, including the “comfort woman” statue as well as artwork concerning the late Emperor Hirohito — had tried to continue the event elsewhere in Japan after the Aichi Triennale.

But scheduled exhibitions in Tokyo and Osaka ended up postponed or prohibited amid ongoing sabotage and intimidation efforts by the Japanese right.

The exhibition finally reopened in Nagoya 20 months after the original triennale, only to be suspended once again with the delivery of the suspected firecracker.

By Cho Ki-weon, staff reporter

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