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Nobuyoshi Araki nude photos censored in Mexico City

After a local bar was forced to remove images of nude women from its walls, the gallery Kurimanzutto plans to restage the show

by Gabriella Angeleti, Helen Stoilas  |  8 September 2016
Nobuyoshi Araki nude photos censored in Mexico City
The opening of the Araki show at Cantina Ardalio in Mexico City
A series of explicit prints by the Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki were censored from display on the walls of a local bar in Mexico City last week. The images, drawn from the 76-year-old artist’s published photography books, depict nude women, some in bondage, as well as food and flowers, and were labelled by authorities as pornography.

The installation was part of an exhibition organised by the artist Abraham Cruzvillegas with the Mexico City gallery Kurimanzutto, which now plans to restage the show at the Cantina Ardalio every Thursday evening until 13 October “to emphasise issues relating to censorship and freedom of expression”, a spokeswoman for the gallery says.

  • Nobuyoshi Araki, from the series Kekkai , 2014. Photo: © Nobuyoshi Araki / Courtesy of kurimanzutto, Mexico City and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
  • Nobuyoshi Araki, from the series Kekkai , 2014. Photo: © Nobuyoshi Araki / Courtesy of kurimanzutto, Mexico City and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
  • Nobuyoshi Araki, from the series Kekkai , 2014. Photo: © Nobuyoshi Araki / Courtesy of kurimanzutto, Mexico City and Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.
  • The opening of the Araki show at Cantina Ardalio in Mexico City
  • The opening of the Araki show at Cantina Ardalio in Mexico City
Acting an anonymous tip, regional authorities arrived at the Cantina Ardalio on Friday, 2 September, the day after the show’s opening, and threatened to shut down the business. “The delegation representative bullied the owner, demanding a mordida bribe, under the table,” the gallery spokewoman says. “Faced with the reality of closure, which would have meant the loss of livelihood for several worker’s and their families, the cantina was forced as a last resort, to censor the exhibition. The authorities insisted on stripping the photos off the wall, leaving only rough scraps of paper and tape behind where there had once been art.”

Araki’s work draws on a long history of erotic art in Japan, which has more recently become taboo because of the country’s strict censorship laws. The debate over the sexual nature of some images has cropped up throughout his career. In 2013, when London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery held a show, The Guardian newspaper ran an article asking: “Is Nobuyoshi Araki’s photography art or porn?” Of the latest censorship, the gallery spokeswoman says: “It is something quite unexpected in the Mexican context yet common for Araki’s career.”



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