Any contemporary art enthusiast can list the trademark museums around North America and Europe that re-affirm their status as a connoisseur. But the less publicized yet equally enriching island of Naoshima in Japan is one of those places you wouldn't immediately think of when discussing the topic of contemporary art. Located on the southern side of the country, (2 hours 20 minutes from Tokyo, 1 hour 50 minutes from Kyoto) Naoshima Island is a haven of artistic and architectural talent that showcases some of Japan's finest visionaries.
Benesse Art Site Naoshima is the center of Naoshima's creative culture. The Bennesse House, the core of the Art Site, is one of the most unique museums in the world as it doubles as a hotel. Visitors are free to roam the halls of the exhibits well into the evening, and retire in the modern, luxurious rooms. Designed by legendary architect Tadao Ando, the Benesse House offers visitors the chance to enjoy the architectural and landscape designs commissioned by talent from around the world, (including works by Cesar, Richard Long, Frank Stella, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein) and further enjoy other facilities including cafes, restaurants, and even a spa. The spring and summer months are ideal times to visit the island and appreciate a focal point of Japanese aesthetic.
In 1998, the Art House Project began as a means to transform old houses into works of art. A series of seven permanent installations in the Honmura district, the Art House aims to establish a community trademark through its commissioned artists' work. According to its mission statement, it is no longer acceptable that artwork exists by itself; rather, artwork must be accepted as part of the regional environments with local support at its foundation. This inherently Japanese aesthetic of the collaboration between nature art is beautifully exhibited all over the island, and as the organic project develops, a cohesive intermingling of art and community results.
The latest addition to Naoshima's art culture is the Chichu Art Museum, which opened in 2004. Widely described as a place where art and architecture are harmoniously joined to play off each other's style and message, the Chichu Art Museum is one of Ando's more progressive works. Built primarily underground, the permanent works of Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell communicate with the architecture's natural light emitted through modern, swooping apertures.
Please visit http://www.benesse-artsite.jp/en/ for more information about Benesse Art Site Naoshima.