Photo/Illutration The rear view of a sculpture symbolizing "comfort women" seen in the foreground at an art exhibition in Nagoya’s Naka Ward on July 6 (Kenji Seki)

NAGOYA--The public is getting a fresh chance to see controversial works that resulted in the suspension of the exhibit at the Aichi Triennale 2019 international art festival after protests.

The Sakae municipal gallery in Nagoya’s Naka Ward on July 6 began hosting an exhibition of the works.

In front of the building where the gallery is located, a group carried out a demonstration calling for the event to be canceled, while others supporting the exhibition held up signs to counter the demonstrators. 

Up to 50 people are allowed to attend the exhibition per hour as a precaution against the novel coronavirus.

According to the organizer, some 40 visitors turned up to see the exhibition each hour, which showcases works displayed at the Aichi Triennale’s “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’” exhibit.

The works include a sculpture symbolizing "comfort women," who were forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during World War II, and a video showing scenes of burning portraits, including that of Emperor Showa, the posthumous name of Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989).

The "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" exhibit was temporarily shut down after just three days due to a flood of protests and threats of terrorist acts.

“Unlike on TV and other media, all the works looked striking seen first-hand,” said a company employee who saw the exhibition on July 6. “Due to the restriction on visitor numbers, I couldn’t go to the exhibit two years ago even after it reopened. I wanted the exhibit to be held again, so I’m glad that I was able to see it this time.”

The man, 64, who lives in Kota, Aichi Prefecture, said he also wants to visit another exhibition organized by people associated with a political group with an anti-immigration platform. It will be held at the same venue between July 9 and July 11 to counter the current exhibition.

Some visitors on July 6 yelled at the video representation on display and were prevented from causing more disruption by staff members.

The exhibition currently under way was planned by a citizens’ group that protested the suspension of the 2019 exhibit.

“It’s important to keep this exhibition running until the end of its schedule,” said Yuji Nakatani, a lawyer and a co-representative of the group. “Shutting it down halfway will set a bad precedent that obstruction can restrict other people’s freedom of expression.”

A similar exhibition was also planned in Tokyo but was postponed after dozens of people repeatedly shouted in protest near the venue.

The manager of the venue for another exhibition to be held in Osaka revoked the permit to use the site for that purpose due to phone calls and emails from people protesting the event as well as demonstrations against it.

(This article was written by Kenji Seki and Chul Hwang.)