No Subsidies For Controversial Aichi Art Festival

No subsidies for controversial Aichi art festival

The Japanese government has decided not to provide the planned subsidies for an international art festival underway in Aichi Prefecture.

One of the exhibitions was canceled only three days after it opened on August 1 because of threats. The works on display under the theme of freedom of expression included a statue of a girl symbolizing those referred to as wartime comfort women.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs announced on Thursday that it will not pay 78 million yen, or about 724,000 dollars, in subsidies set aside for the festival, Aichi Triennale 2019.

Agency officials say the prefectural government was aware of the possible safety risks, but failed to report them when applying for the subsidies.

They say the agency determined in its review that there was a procedural flaw with the prefecture's application.

The agency decided in April that the event could be subsidized because it is designed to promote culture as a tourism resource.

On August 2, just as protests, threats and complaints were pouring in about the exhibition, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would carry out a thorough review before making an official decision on the subsidy payments.

Suga said the documents submitted for screening did not give details of the featured works.

Aichi Governor Hideaki Ohmura declined to comment, saying he had not received official word from the agency. He said he will examine the decision to see if there are reasonable grounds for canceling the subsidies that the agency had initially agreed to provide.

He suggested bringing the case to a panel for resolving disputes between the central and local governments.

An expert on constitutional law is critical of the agency's decision, and urges officials to think over the matter again carefully and calmly.

Tokyo Metropolitan University Professor Sota Kimura says withholding subsidies because violent threats have been made is tantamount to inflicting an additional attack on a victim. He says making threats is a crime, which the police or judicial authorities should deal with properly.

Kimura argues that subsidies should be granted on the basis of artistic merit. He says withholding subsidies for the reasons cited in this case could give rise to the risk of exclusion, or not extending financial support for the expression of certain thoughts and ideas.