Art in Japan: Naoshima Island
Indagare member Meg Bergstrand recently returned from a trip to Naoshima Island in Japan. Here are her impressions from the trip.
Naoshima Island is known in Japan as ‘the art island’. It lies off the eastern coast of the mainland island of Japan, and is renowned for its collection of contemporary art galleries, exhibits, installations and outdoor sculptures. It is like the Japanese equivalent to Inhotim, the exceptional art exhibition center set up in rural Brazil by Bernardo Paz.
The concept behind Naoshima’s art presence was to marry art and nature—to build upon the serene views of the Seto Inland Sea and vegetation of the island itself. Celebrated Japanese architect, Tadeo Ando, was commissioned to design many of the buildings on the island. Ando’s thought for design being very much informed by Japanese esthetic of Zen and natural environment.
We stayed at the Benesse House (www.benesse-artsite.jp/en/benessehouse)—which also happens to be one of the museums on the island. While there are other less expensive lodgings on the island it is absolutely worth it to pay more… where else can you stay literally in a museum with access to look at works of art at any time night and day? And no guards! You can literally linger over Cy Twombly’s scribbles of Jackson Pollack’s splatters in your pajamas! However—be forewarned… the hotel books out very far in advance.
We rented bikes one day and biked from museum to museum and all around the beautifully landscaped Naoshima. There is even a small area of the island that is inhabited mostly by the elders of the island. In several of the houses scattered about area are installations-like that of James Turrell. One enters into a completely dark space. Eventually your eyes get used to the darkness and you walk towards the light.
The big-ticket draw on the island is the Chichu Art Museum. The museum was designed by Ando and is entirely underground. Three progressive works by Turrell culminate with ‘Open Sky’ where viewers recline on stone benches to watch the evolving sky framed by an open ceiling.
My feeling was that this experience was truly exceptional. A once in a lifetime event—which has really transformed my vision of art.
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