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War-themed artwork row reflects free speech tensions in Japan

Statue's removal and reinstallation highlight failure of Aichi Triennale

"After 'Freedom of Expression?'" -- a work by South Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung -- is shown after being unveiled to the media in Nagoya on Oct. 14 following the close earlier in the day of the Aichi Triennale. The exhibit was reinstalled on Oct. 8 after it was abruptly closed two months earlier.   © Kyodo

NAGOYA, Japan -- On Oct. 8, an artwork called "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" at the Aichi Triennale 2019 returned like a long-lost friend who had moved away for undisclosed reasons. The exhibit, which had been shut down three days after the festival opened, was back by popular demand for a one-week showing, but only after weeks of uproar from journalists, citizens and fellow Triennale artists who pulled out their exhibits in solidarity.

The centerpiece of the controversy was "Statue of a Girl of Peace" by South Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung. The statue itself is purposely tame, depicting a teenage girl seated on a chair with her arms in her lap and a bird on her shoulder.

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