Study visit to Naoshima, Japan

In July 2017 we went to the island Naoshima for a study visit.

We started by visiting the Chichu Art Museum. Despite being mostly underground to avoid affecting the natural scenery, the museum lets in an abundance of natural light (building designed by Tadao Ando).

The artworks by Claude Monet and Walter De Maria serve as a nice starter. The mind-bending works by James Turrell never cease to amaze. On the day of our visit the sun was high in the sky (2pm) and the square aperture of “Open Sky” (2004) was so bright, it was almost impossible to watch without sunglasses. It created a strange atmosphere in the space underneath, and made people wonder if the ceiling was perhaps a screen lit by strong lights.
The feeling while entering the work “Open Field” (2000) can not be described accurately. But it resembles going from a 2-dimensional world into a 3-dimensional world. Highly recommended to undergo this experience once in our life at least. Light as the subject, not as the enabler for viewing art.

Next we visited the Kadoya house at The Art House project, the oldest location, where it all began. The people of Naoshima participated in the creation of the work “Sea of Time” by Tatsuo Miyajima. The LED counters are all counting down at a different pace, making us reflect about the meaning of time.

We ended our day with the Benesse House Museum. We enjoyed the works of Alberto Giacometti, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Jean Michel Basquiat (not one of the better works), Yves Klein, Andy Warhol (unfortunately from a distance since the lunch room was closed), and Bruce Nauman (we were lucky to see “100 Live and Die’ – 1984, go fully lit).

On our way back to the hotel we passed by several Niki de Saint Phalle sculptures. Great to see these works outdoors – they remind us of the great work in the private garden of a collector in Knokke, Belgium. Our vote for “sculpture that made us smile most” goes to Karel Appel “Frog and Cat” (1990).

Tip: The Benesse House hotel is excellent but don’t expect a Japanese feeling. You could be anywhere in the world. Therefore it is recommended to spent also some time in another town in Japan in a more traditional environment, to get the best of both worlds.


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