Naoshima: Memoirs from the isle of art
14 apr 2015 by Myrto Katsimicha
Our Athens-based contributor Myrto Katsimicha shares with us a visual memoir from Japan's island of contemporary art.
"Naoshima is not like anything in the west, but more an ultra-cool reference and homage to what Japan has been doing all along, in cutting away distraction and using frames and light and silence to still the mind and train one in attention." Pico Iyer, The Guardian
During this year's spring break I found myself in Japan enjoying the wonderful cherry blossoms in full bloom while at the same time making the most out of the Japanese contemporary art scene. In quest for an immersive experience beyond any museum standards I couldn't miss making a stop in Naoshima, a small island - barely 10 square meters in size - devoted to contemporary art. Located in Japan's Seto Inland sea, Naoshima is one of the three isles that comprise the "Benesse Art Site Naoshima". A series of art activities initiated in 1989 with the aim to create "special places" by exhibiting art and by forming architectural structures that correspond naturally and further enhance the unique landscape that surrounds them.
The adventure commences from Uno station, the departure point of the ferry that takes you to Naoshima. The 'City project' including public sculptures at the port as well as public photographic projects prepare the grounds for what one is about to view as soon as he sets foot on the island. The moment I arrived at Miyanoura port, I couldn't help spotting the dots of Yayoi Kusama's giant red pumpkin. In the same area, I was tempted enough to take a look at Shinro Ohtake's bathhouse, an art facility where visitors are invited to take a real bath. The art-seeing continues in Naoshima's Honmura district with the Art House Project that since 1998 has taken empty houses and turns them into works of art themselves. Today, it comprises seven houses, in total, with works by Shinro Ohtake, Hiroshi Sugimoto, James Turrell, Yoshihiro Suda, Tatsuo Miyajima, Rei Naito and Hiroshi Senju. A series of public sculptures are scattered around the Benesse House area on the way back to Miyanoura. In addition to the outdoor experience by the sea, the Chichu Art Museum - exhibiting among others Walter de Maria's 'Time/Timeless/No Time' (2004) - the Lee Ufan Museum and the Benesse House Museum conclude the journey to a unique destination for contemporary art and not only.
Nobuyoshi Araki, photos in the City Project.
Public sculpture in Miyanoura area.
Shinro Ohtake, Dreaming Tongue/Bokkon-Nozoki, 2006.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Appropriate Proportion, 2002.
Yoshihiro Suda, Gokaisho, 2006.
James Turrell, Backside of the Moon, 1999.
Shinro Ohtake, Naoshima Bath "I♥湯".
All images courtesy of Myrto Katsimicha.
Benesse Art Site Naoshima is the collective name for art activities conducted by Benesse Holdings, Inc. and Fukutake Foundation on the islands of Naoshima, Teshima, and Inujima in the Seto Inland Sea. In 1985, Tetsuhiko Fukutake came together with Chikatsugu Miyake to develop what has now become an educational cultural area. In addition to collecting art works, Benesse Art Site Naoshima provides artists and architects with opportunities to create and exhibit original works at various locations throughout the islands, thus enabling visitors to experience the very finest contemporary art.