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Naoshima Art Island

Naoshima's iconic pumpkin, by Yayoi Kusama
Naoshima Art Island

Japan is an archipelago, and one of its Seto inland sea islands, Naoshima, is known colloquially as the ‘art island’.  For art and architecture aficionados, Naoshima is a destination in itself. For the rest of us, it’s a fascinating addition to any Japanese itinerary. 
 
While many of the Inland Sea islands remain quiet and uninhabited, Naoshima has been turned into one of the most remarkable art and architecture destinations in the world. Visitors often refer to it as “Ando Island,” since most of the structures on the island were designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. A museum designed by and dedicated to the renowned architect is also located on the island.

Naoshima’s transformation into a unique art project began in 1987, when Benesse Corporation CEO, Soichiro Fukutake, purchased the south side of the island and enlisted Ando, who spent the next two decades designing a hotel complex and museums.Adhering to his guiding principle of designing buildings that follow the natural forms of landscapes, Ando’s buildings on the island blend into or are built into the earth, some of them opening up to the sky.

Some of Ando’s buildings became part of the Benesse Art Site Naoshima, which showcases major artworks acquired by the company over the past decades. Since 1995, many of those pieces have been created specifically for the island.

Just as the art has been designed for the island, the buildings that house the works have been designed to maximize the impact of the art.
The island’s Chichu Art Museum showcases its collection in spectacular and unexpected ways.
In the museum’s Claude Monet Space, a vast, pure white underground chamber is made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny stone tiles. The dazzling while tiles perfectly show off the enormous blue and violet paintings on each wall. The space gleams white from the natural light peering through a white stone ceiling.

“They’ve managed to create a perfect balance of light, sound, space, color and proportion, which makes the experience transcendent and unforgettable,” says Rhea Karam, a New York-based fine arts photographer at work on a project inspired by Naoshima.

For more information on getting to, and staying on Naoshima, please contact Asia Answers.

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