Yayoi Kusuma's 'Yellow Pumpkin' on Naoshima.

Naoshima Art Museums

Art Museums on Naoshima

On a nice sunny day I walked through the museum area of Naoshima, visiting the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum, and visiting some outdoor sculpture exhibits.

I'm starting at the Miyanoura port, where a white metal grid sculpture echoes the small conical peaks protruding from the shallow Seto Inland sea.

Art in Miyanoura on Naoshima.

It's open, you can step right in. It's very popular with children.

Art in Miyanoura on Naoshima.

The frequent ferry connecting Naoshima to Uno is in port.

Art in Miyanoura on Naoshima.

There is a bus that crosses the island between the towns of Miyanoura and Honmura, which you can ride for ¥100.

This is a free bus running through the museum area, where most other traffic is prohibited.

Art in Miyanoura on Naoshima.

Chichu Museum

I soon came to the Chichu Art Museum. The name literally means "art museum in the earth", as it is entirely below ground level. But sections are open to the sky directly or through skylights, for plenty of natural light.

Flowers at Chichu Museum on Naoshima.
Monet's garden at Giverny

You buy your ticket at a booth by the road. Soon after my visit, they started requiring you to make a reservation in advance on the museum website. From there you approach the museum through the Chichu Garden, an area of about 400 m2 hosting about 150 types of plants and 40 types of trees. The plants and trees are all ones that appeared in Claude Monet's works and in his garden.

Flowers at Chichu Museum on Naoshima.
Flowers at Chichu Museum on Naoshima.

There's a small pond here with water lilies, surrounded by other plants, to get you in the mood for Claude Monet's paintings.

The Chichu museum is composed of several large concrete-walled underground spaces, housing a small number of dramatic works. It is all constructed from cast concrete, done with nearly perfect precision and finish. It was designed by Andō Tadao, who was inspired by visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel in Tōkyō to study architecture. Critics say that Andō has a "haiku-like" style, emphasizing nothingness, empty space, and simplicity. His designs use natural light and follow the natural shape of the landscape. He won the 1995 Pritzker Prize, the highest distinction in architecture, before designing this museum which opened in 2004.

One large room has paints from Claude Monet's Water Lilies series from 1915 through 1926. You step into the room facing a 200×300 cm diptych on the opposite wall. The walls to your left and right have two paintings each. 200×213 cm, 200×200 cm, 100×200 cm, and 100×200 cm.

Open Sky is a light-based space by James Turrell. A roughly cubical space, topped with a pyramidal upper space, truncated with a square opening to the sky.

There are two other light-based pieces by Turrell, Open Field and Afrum, Pale Blue, each in its own interior space.

Turrell also made one of the Art House installations in Honmura. It's a former warehouse which you enter through a twisting series of baffles into what seems like total darkness. You feel your way to a bench along one wall, sit, and wait. After 10 to 15 minutes your eyes become dark-adapted enough to see that there's something across a space. That eventually looks like a rectangular area, and then it seems to be an open space. You are invited to stand and walk over there, and you see that it's a space shaped sort of like a shallow swimming pool rotated up 90° and lit with a few small blue LEDs. Those small blue LEDs are the only illumination in the site.

Time/Timeless/No Time is a work by Walter De Maria. It's a 2.3 meter granite ball on a central landing of a broad staircase in a dramatic hall.

You can't take pictures on the museum site, so the pictures rejoin my visit on the way to the next stop.

To the Benesse House Museum

There are two small roads in the museum district on the southern part of the island. The shuttle bus and guests of the Benesse Hotel are the only users. So, you can casually walk in the road.

Along the coast on Naoshima.

Below, we're looking to the west, with the Seto Ōhashi or Great Seto Bridge in the distance. It's a series of double deck bridges joining the large islands of Honshū and Shikoku via five small islands. It's 13.1 km long, the world's longest two-deck bridge system, with four expressway lines above two rail lines.

Along the coast on Naoshima.

Below, Takamatsu comes into sight in the distance.

Along the coast on Naoshima.
Cai Guo-Qiang's 'Cultural Melting Bath: Project for Naoshima'.

Cai Guo-Qiang's Cultural Melting Bath: Project for Naoshima is between the road and the beach near the Benesse House Museum.

Cai Guo-Qiang's 'Cultural Melting Bath: Project for Naoshima'.

It is an arrangement of heavily eroded stones.

Cai Guo-Qiang's 'Cultural Melting Bath: Project for Naoshima'.
Cai Guo-Qiang's 'Cultural Melting Bath: Project for Naoshima'.
Along the coast on Naoshima.

The Benesse House Museum was also designed by Andō Tadao. It was the first major art facility on Naoshima, with the museum building finished in 1992

Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.

It is a somewhat more traditional art museum, with galleries containing multiple works. It includes works by western contemporary artists including Andy Warhol, Jasper Jones, Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, and others, in addition to Japanese contemporary artists.

Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.

There are several sculptures outdoors on the museum grounds.

Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.

More large marble balls by Walter de Maria.

Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.
Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.

There are more pieces down by the waterline. Not an eroded tank or abandoned boat, but art.

Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.
Benesse House Museum on Naoshima.

Continuing along the narrow road, we pass the Benesse House hotel.

Benesse hotel on Naoshima.

The separated wings of the hotel are surrounded by brightly colored sculptures.

Sculpture garden near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture garden near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.
Sculpture garden near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.
Sculpture garden near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.
Sculpture garden near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.

Yayoi Kusuma's Yellow Pumpkin

Yayoi Kusuma's Yellow Pumpkin has become a symbol of Naoshima and the other Art Islands.

Yayoi Kusuma 'Yellow Pumpkin' near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.

Takamatsu and the tall tower building at its port are visible in the distance, left of the pumpkin.

Yayoi Kusuma 'Yellow Pumpkin' near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.

The Benesse House Museum is barely visible at the top of the hill.

Yayoi Kusuma 'Yellow Pumpkin' near the Benesse hotel on Naoshima.

I can continue on the road into Honmura, then cross the island to Miyanoura. Then dinner in the evening at Little Plum, and a drink at Saru.

The above is specific to Takamatsu. Or maybe you want to explore other places in Japan.

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