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Nobuyoshi Araki, Kaori, 2001–2008.

Angry Asian Girls Association Leads Protest Against Araki in Berlin

Last Friday, at the opening of the exhibition “Nobuyoshi Araki: Impossible Love—Vintage Photographs” at the photography gallery C/O Berlin, the activist group Angry Asian Girls Association (AAGA) led a protest to bring attention to accusations brought against the artist by Kaori, a Japanese model who has been the subject of many of Nobuyoshi Araki’s photographs.

In April, Kaori wrote in a blog post that the artist exploited and emotionally bullied her over the course of their sixteen-year collaboration. She claims that he never granted her a professional contract, often failed to grant her privacy during photo shoots, and did not pay her fully for her work. She also alleged that he did not inform her how or when photographs of her would be published.

On the Facebook event for the protest, the group wrote: “We demand changes in the art industry’s structure, which only wants to limit women to be the ‘Muse’ to inspire male artists. We demand changes in the organizations and institutions which agree to strengthen the structures.”

When AAGA wrote a complaint to C/O Berlin on November 30, curator Felix Hoffman replied: “By 2001, when Araki started working with Kaori, Araki had published more than 400 (!) books already. The model should have been aware of his type of work. . . . Photos of the model Kaori will not be exhibited.” 

In a statement to Artnews, the museum said: “Nobuyoshi Araki’s work provokes strong emotions and polarizes viewers—in Germany today just as it did in Japan when it first appeared. C/O Berlin takes critique of artists and artistic work in the context of the international Me Too debate very seriously. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to join this debate by writing their opinions in our guest book or sharing their views online with the hashtag #arakidebate.”

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