For artistic inspiration, a visit to Naoshima Island, Japan, is the anecdote. Located in Japan in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea, with a population of around 3500, it’s abandoned cottages and businesses have been turned into art installations, museums, and sculpture gardens.
The island also houses several contemporary art museums, such as the Chichu Art Museum (literally, “in the earth”) which features art installations by James Turrell, Walter De Maria, and paintings by Claude Monet. The building was designed by self-taught architect, Tadao Ando, and is situated on one of the highest points of the island. The Lee Ufan Museum, also designed by Ando, features Ufan’s rock sculptures.
We stayed in a hotel that is also a museum, called Benesse Art House. This unique combination means there is artwork in each guest room, and some rooms are located in the floors above the actual museum. The concept is the coexistence of nature, architecture, and art. The hotel’s Japanese restaurant is located within the museum, so when we ate dinner, we got to “hang out” amongst the art at night. It was an eerie and exciting feeling. The French restaurant is right on the beach, and happy hour was held along the restaurant’s outdoor deck. Among the many art installations at Benesse Art House, I particularly liked Swiss artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s outdoor sculptures, Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin, and Bruce Nauman’s 100 Live and Die.
Inside the Benesse Art House Museum, I loved Jonathan Borofsky’s Three Chattering Men (a sculpture in which they have to turn the sound off at night because the noise freaks out the guests in their guest rooms), Yukinori Yanagi’s Banzai Corner, and Jennifer Bartlett’s Yellow And Black Boats, (which is an art installation featuring a painting and actual yellow & black boats. The surprise is that when you turn around and look at the beach through the museum window, you see copies of the boats on the sand.)
The nearby island, Inujima, can be reached by ferry. Located on the island is the Inujima Seirensho Museum, whose goal is “a project that envisions a recycling-based society as a new model of regional revitalization via industrial heritage, architecture, contemporary art, and the environment.” This island continues the “art house” concept, and adds art along the roads and sidewalks to surprise the visitor as he/she rambles around. One of my favorite surprises were the two curving walls created by Haruka Kojin, entitled “Contact Lens” and “Reflectwo.”
Overall, the peace and serenity of Naoshima/Inujima coupled with the surprising artwork that is found while wandering inside and out, is enchanting, magical, and awe inspiring.