Foundation of AICA Japan / Background / In Defense of Freedom of Expression

Foundation of AICA Japan

AICA Japan was founded on May 15, 1954 at the National Museum of Modern Art, which was then located in Kyobashi, Tokyo (1). It was established as the Japanese branch of the Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art (hence our acronym) (2), and was independent of other art critics’ organizations in Japan. The purpose of the association was to unite art critics in Japan, facilitate international cooperation, and contribute to the development of art and culture (3).

At the time of AICA Japan’s creation, the president was Hijikata Teiichi, the standing committee chair was Tominaga Sōichi, the standing committee members were Imaizumi Atsuo, Kanamaru Shigene, Katsumi Masaru, Kamon Yasuo, Hamaguchi Ryūichi, Yamada Chisaburō, and Wada Shin, the secretary general was Kawakita Michiaki, and the secretary was Ogura Katsuyuki (Tadao) (4). AICA Japan documents indicate that at least 31 people joined the Association by the end of 1954 (5).

The earliest members include not only art critics, but also critics in other fields—including architecture, design, photography—as well as practicing architects. According to a press report at the time of AICA Japan’s creation, the association “is not limited to art in the narrow sense of the term, but also includes critics in architecture, crafts, photography, art education, et cetera, and conducts organizational activities such as examining various issues related to art and culture, engaging international cultural exchange issues, and cooperating with related organizations and groups.” This indicates that AICA Japan was conceived with a broad scope, covering not only art but also adjacent fields (6).



The creation of AICA Japan was initiated not by Japanese critics themselves, but by request of AICA headquarters. At its 1952 general meeting, two years before the formation of the Japanese branch, AICA approved the creation of official branches in Japan, Germany, and Turkey (7). Tominaga Sōichi, who was in attendance, later wrote that AICA “had informed him in advance of its intention to establish a Japanese branch” (8). At that time, however, the Japanese branch did not yet have any real substance (9).

Another reason for the formation of AICA Japan was the need for art critics to be able to deal with Japan’s participation in international exhibitions. In June 1953, in response to the lack of communication among the organizations involved in participating in the Second São Paulo Biennial in 1953, the International Art Discussion Group [Kokusai bijutsu kondankai] was established as an informal liaison organization for related organizations and groups, despite the fact that an official organization with ostensibly similar functions, the Society for International Cultural Relations [Kokusai bunka shinkōkai], which was created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but operated independently from the government, already existed (10). To select artists for the Venice Biennale in 1954, the International Art Discussion Group, convened that February and decided that member artists and critics would each recommend five members for the selection committee. While the Japan Artists Association recommended committee members from practicing artists, critics did not yet have their own organization, so Tominaga, Hijikata Teiichi, and Imaizumi Atsuo were tasked with selecting committee members from among practicing critics (11). Art critics also needed to deal with the selection as an organization. Although AICA approved the formation of a Japanese branch in 1952, there was initially no movement to actually create a branch association in Japan. Considering that AICA Japan was formed three months after the meeting of the International Art Discussion Group, it is clear that the matter of participating in international exhibitions was the immediate impetus for the actual formation of AICA Japan.



  1. Anonymous, “Bijutsu hyōronka renmei kessei saru [The Association of Art Critics Established],” Nihon bijutsuka renmei nyūsu [Japan Artists Association News], no. 43 (June 1954): 5.
  2. AICA Japan once referred to the Society for Art Issues [bijutsu mondai kenkyūkai], the Art Critics Union [bijutsu hyōronka kumiai], and the Art Critics Club [bijutsu hyōron-ka kurabu] as its predecessor organizations, but this is not true. See Kajiya Kenji, “Bijutsu hyōronka renmei setsuritsu no ikisatsu [Background of the Establishment of the Association of Art Critics],” Bijutsu hyōronka renmei kaihō [AICA Japan Newsletter], no. 20 (November 2019).
  3. Anonymous, “Bijutsu dantai ichiran [List of Art Organizations],” Nihon bijutsukan [Yearbook of Japan Art] (Tokyo: National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 1954), 269. This wording is the same as that of Article 2 of the Statute of AICA Japan, which indicates that the purpose of the association has not changed since its formation.
  4. Segi Shinichi, Sengo kūhaku-ki no bijutsu [Art in the Postwar Vacuum] (Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1996), 182. Except for the secretary, the same positions still exist today. The structure of the association has remained largely unchanged since its formation.
  5. The number of the members at the time of its creation varies depending on the documents. In an article featuring important art critics in Japan, Chigi (or Segi) Kurō (who has not published any other writings and seems to be a pseudonym) states that there were “dozens of people from both prewar and postwar groups.” Chigi (or Segi) Kurō, with photographs by Ken Domon, “12nin no bijutsu hihyōka [Twelve Art Critics],” Bijutsu techō [Art Notebook], no. 85 (September 1954), p. 46. In the book mentioned in note 4 (p. 182), Segi Shinichi writes, “At the time of its creation, there were twenty members at the most.” According to Segi, there was a printed roster, but it has not survived among the association’s documents.
  6. See the article in note 1.
  7. Anonymous, “International Association of Art Critics, 4th General Assembly, Zurich-Basle-Lauzanne, July 7−12, 1952 [Compte-rendu de l'Assemblée générale, 1952],” FR ACA AICAI THE CON005 04/06, Archives de la critique d’art, Rennes, France.
  8. Tominaga Sōichi, “Dai 4-kai sekai bijutsu hyōronka kaigi [The Fourth AICA International Congress],” Bijutsu hihyō [Art Criticism], no. 11 (November 1952): 26-27.
  9. On this point, Segi Shinichi also states that Japan was “invited to join the International Association of Art Critics, and in response to this invitation [...] Japan expressed its intention to join.” Segi, Nihon no zen’ei 19451999 [Japan’s Avant-garde 1945−1999] (Tokyo: Seikatsu no Tomo sha, 2000), 245.
  10. Anonymous, “kokusai bijutsu kondankai dekiru [International Art Discussion Group Established],” Nihon bijutsuka renmei nyūsu [Japan Artists Association News], no. 36 (August 1953): 3−4. Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the Cultural Properties Protection Committee, the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, the National Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, the Japan Artists Association, and the Society for International Cultural Relations participated in the meeting to establish the new organization. In March 1957, AICA Japan and the Japan Artists Association jointly petitioned the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Education, Science and Culture to establish an organization to deal with issues such as Japan’s participation in international exhibitions, resulting in the creation of the International Art Council that August. See anonymous, “Kokusai bijutsu mondai shori kikan ni kanshi seifu ni chinjō [Petition to the Government for an organization dealing with International Art Issues],” Nihon bijutsuka renmei nyūsu [Japan Artists Association News], no. 67 (March 1957): 1−2.
  11. Anonymous, “Biennāre Nihon sanka kimaru [Japan to Participate in Biennale],” Nihon bijutsuka renmei nyūsu [Japan Artists Association News], no. 40 (March 1954): 4.


The following is the list of past presidents of AICA Japan.

1954−1955 Hijikata Teiichi

1956−1959 Tominaga Sōichi

1960−1963 Takiguchi Shūzō

1964−1965 Tominaga Sōichi

1966−1973 Yamada Chisaburō

1974−1982 Okamoto Kenjirō

1983−1986 Tōno Yoshiaki

1987−1994 Kawakita Michiaki

1995−1998 Honma Masayoshi

1999−2008 Hariu Ichirō

2009−2011 Nakahara Yūsuke

2012−2017 Minemura Toshiaki

2018−2019 Nanjō Fumio

2020−2021 Hayashi Michio


In Defense of Freedom of Expression (2016)

The basic principle of the Association of Art Critics is to honor the autonomy of artistic expression and criticism, to seek their unimpeded preservation, and for members to mutually support one another in the fulfillment of these goals. The Association will oppose and resist any unreasonable suppression from exterior forces against the autonomy of artistic expression and criticism, including enforced and arbitrary alterations of any given work (or demand thereof). All who engage in the practices of expression have the right to present them in public. Artistic expression and criticism are made public in order to open one’s accomplishments to discussion (and it is only through public presentation that an open discussion of the evaluation of an expression becomes possible). Through such dialogical interaction, the quality of expressive or discursive activity must constantly be improved and its integrity preserved. An artistic expression, when publicly exhibited, should not be unnecessarily suppressed based on arbitrary differences of opinion or biased interpretations. Furthermore, it must never be preemptively inhibited based on fear for a yet unknown interpretation, or as a precautionary or deterrent measure. Artistic and critical activities involve autonomous judgment and criteria derived from these premises formed through a long and accumulated history of arguments. The activity of the Association is established upon such historical endowment, and has the preservation and support of this autonomy as its primary goal.* It is the duty of each member of the Association of Art Critics to make perpetual effort to sustain such autonomy of expressive and critical activity. *One of the main objectives of the International Association of Art Critics is stated as follows: “to defend impartially freedom of expression and thought and oppose arbitrary censorship.”」 Also, according to the website of AICA USA: “A statement against censorship was one of AICA's founding principles”   Appendix 1. If a given expression contains threat, intimidation, or defamation that endangers any individual’s life, this expression must obviously be criticized as such. This is because such expression is not open to discussion, but is rather regarded as an imposition (unfalsifiable assertion) of a will to exclude. 2. Artistic expression and the act of criticism has the right to retain its autonomy (right of exercising self-scrutiny, adjustment, and alteration) in all phases pertaining to the process of creation. Such internal process following an autonomous logic must strictly be distinguished from unreasonable interpolation, alteration, suppression, or erasure through intervention of exterior authorities (censorship by arbitrary application of law, or imposition based on asymmetrical social relationships regarding position or interest). While we consistently protect the right for autonomous activity, we will not allow for the arbitrary intervention (censorship, interpolation) of external coercive powers to enter the process of creation.


Remarks on the cancellation of After “Freedom of Expression?” at the Aichi Triennale 2019

Statement regarding the press report on the establishment of a Review Committee for the “Hiroshima Triennale 2020 in BINGO”

Statement regarding the decision by the Agency of Cultural Affairs to deliver the promised subsidy to the Aichi Triennale 2019