Photo/IllutrationA video presentation by Momoyo Torimitsu depicts executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. apologizing at a news conference. (Provided by Museums Quartier)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

VIENNA--The Japanese Embassy here withdrew its certification for a diplomacy-related art exhibition that includes works on Japan’s responsibility for World War II and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The “Japan Unlimited” exhibition, featuring a number of artists from Japan, is being held at the Museums Quartier in central Vienna. It was originally intended to commemorate 150 years of Japan-Austria diplomatic relations.

Embassy officials did not cite any specific artwork, saying only that the certification was retracted because the exhibition “did not match the conditions needed to promote friendly relations.”

Th embassy said the decision was made after a review of the exhibition’s contents following inquiries and complaints about some of the displays.

Although the embassy’s certification was withdrawn on Oct. 30, the exhibition, which started on Sept. 26, will continue until Nov. 24 with the cooperation of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.

One of the works is a video created by Makoto Aida, in which he poses as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and makes a speech calling for Japan to again close its doors to the outside world. He also offers an apology to China and South Korea for atrocities committed during the war.

Artistic group Chim Pom is also represented at the exhibition. Chim Pom recently displayed its work at the “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” exhibit that was closed three days after the start of the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya. Organizers had received angry phone calls and threats over some of the war-related displays.

Marcello Farabegoli, an Italian who serves as curator for the exhibition, said the “Japan Unlimited” exhibition has also been criticized on Twitter because it features works of artists who took part in the Aichi Triennale.

He believes that criticism was the reason the embassy retracted its certification.

Farabegoli said a list of participating artists was sent to the embassy in late June, and embassy staff were on hand when the exhibition opened.

He said the purpose of the exhibition was not to speak badly about Japan but to show the complexities of Japanese society and the many issues it faces.

He did say that one objective of the exhibition was to display works that may include social criticism and would have been difficult for many people to view in Japan.

He also said a decision had been made not to display a statue symbolizing former “comfort women” because it would have been too sensitive considering the current deteriorated ties between Japan and South Korea.

A statue representing the Korean women forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during World War II was part of the “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” exhibit at the Aichi Triennale.

In a statement issued on Nov. 6, “Japan Unlimited” organizers said the Museums Quartier was the core component of cosmopolitanism as well as freedom of the arts and expression. From that standpoint, they said, the exhibition should receive the same respect as all other exhibits on display.

According to embassy officials, certification for the exhibition was given in January for a series of events related to the 150th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Japan and Austria.

The embassy sent a letter to exhibition organizers saying the retraction was made because the event did not match the conditions for promoting friendly ties and deepening mutual understanding between the two nations.

Foreign Ministry officials in Tokyo stressed that the decision was made by the ministry as a whole, and that the retraction was based on a “comprehensive judgment” about the exhibition.

The official in charge explained that certification allows organizers to include a logo showing that an event is supported by the Japanese government.

Local embassies decide on certifications. The embassy in Vienna had certified about 200 different events.

But the official said both the ministry and embassy received a number of inquiries after the exhibition opened, leading to the review by embassy staff.

When asked about the retraction’s effects on freedom of expression, the ministry official said, “The exhibition is continuing even after the withdrawal” of the certification.

(This article was written by Yu Yoshitake in Vienna and Takashi Narazaki in Tokyo.)