A-bomb art exhibition is canceled, linked with nuclear crisis in Fukushima

by Kohei Okata and Masakazu Domen, Staff Writers

On March 23, the Meguro Ward Arts Association, which runs the Meguro Museum of Art in Tokyo, decided to cancel a special exhibition entitled “Observe the Atomic Bombings: 1945-1970.” The exhibition was scheduled to open in April. The organization reportedly concluded that, as radioactive substances beyond the levels of radioactive substances at normal times have also been detected in the metropolitan area due to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, “the contents of the exhibition are not suitable for visitors to observe as a link can now be drawn between the images of the nuclear crisis and the atomic bombings, which caused damage through the release of radiation.”

The special exhibition was organized in order to review the impact of the atomic bombings on Japan after the war through an examination into how creators faced the atomic bombings and how viewers perceived their works. The Meguro Museum of Art prepared about 600 A-bomb-related articles, including pictures, photos, and comic books that were released for 26 years from 1945. The exhibition, which was organized by the museum and other entities with the support of Hiroshima Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, the City of Hiroshima, the City of Nagasaki, and the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, was slated to be held from April 9 to May 29.

According to Haruhisa Tanaka, director of the museum, the Meguro Ward Arts Association discussed a response in the wake of the nuclear crisis. Mr. Tanaka, who also serves as a board member of the association, argued that the exhibition should still be held, saying, “This exhibition is also of great significance in order to learn about how the cities recovered from the atomic bombings.” However, other board members of the association voiced such views as “People are now very sensitive to the idea of radioactive contamination. Would they feel like coming to see this sort of exhibition?” The board meeting on the day formally decided to cancel the exhibition.

Mariko Iida, 79, president of the Tokyo Federation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Toyukai), shared her doubts about the decision to cancel the exhibition, saying, “I believe that now is an opportune time to hold this exhibition, as the chance to contemplate the horror of radiation would be of great significance and elicit a strong response.”

Nobuto Sugiura, deputy director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which planned to loan more than 70 articles including a sketch of the aftermath of the atomic bombing that was left by Yoshiro Fukui, an oil painter, expressed his regret, saying, “I had high hopes for the exhibition, as the project proposal showed such substantial contents. I hope that the museum will hold the exhibition even if the timing is changed.”

(Originally published on March 24, 2011)