Photo/IllutrationThe Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in the United States demands that its animated film being shown at Aichi Triennale 2019 be pulled from the festival. (Hiroyuki Maegawa)

NAGOYA--Foreign artists participating in the Aichi Triennale 2019 international art festival here are demanding its organizers suspend showing their artworks.

The artists decided to pull their works to protest the Aug. 3 closure of the controversial “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” exhibition, which was part of the festival.

They said they made the move to show their support for the artists whose works were "censored."

The exhibition was shut down after just three days when it drew protests and threats including one to set the building on fire.

Eleven of the more than 90 individual or group artists participating in the triennale and a curator jointly issued the demand in an open letter posted on a U.S. art news site on Aug. 12.

Of the 11 artists, all of whom are foreigners, two South Koreans have already shut down the displays of their works.

The letter, titled “In Defense of Freedom of Expression,” disputed the notion that the exhibition had been closed to safeguard public safety.

“We fundamentally disagree that this is an issue of ‘risk management’ and not one of censorship,” it said.

“As a public gesture of solidarity with the censored artists, we demand that the organizers temporarily suspend the exhibition of our artworks in the Triennale while ‘After Freedom of Expression?’ remains closed to the public.”

The artists also said that “as a public institution, it is Aichi Triennale’s responsibility to work in collaboration with the corresponding authorities to provide protection and security for its staff, the visiting public and anyone involved in the exhibition.”

Pedro Reyes, the curator who signed the letter, said that one of the 11 artists is taking a stand against the authorities in Cuba.

“In Mexico, where I come from, in 2018 alone, 144 journalists lost their lives while practicing their freedom of expression. This is why I personally cannot take a soft stand about this situation,” he said.

He added that the letter is not an attack on the art festival’s staff or artistic director Daisuke Tsuda.

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in the United States also asked that a work it contributed, which adapted a news scoop into an animated film, be withdrawn from the festival.

“As a journalism outlet, freedom of expression is core to our mission, and participation in the event now sits in an uneasy tension with that value,” CIR said.

The 11 artists who requested their works be pulled are Tania Bruguera and Reynier Leyva Novo (Cuba); Monica Mayer and Pia Camil (Mexico); Lim Minouk and Park Chan-kyong (South Korea); Javier Tellez (Venezuela); Regina Jose Galindo (Guatemala); Claudia Martinez Garay (Peru); Dora Garcia (Spain); and Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland).

(This article was written by Sayaka Emukai and Hiroyuki Maegawa.)