Woah. Wow. Whhhaaaattt?
Now that that is out of my system, I will try to write this post to give this art island as much justice as I can. The problem is that I don’t want to write too much about Naoshima. The reason this island is so overwhelming is because of the unexpected. If you ever visit this place, (which I really hope one day you will) and I have given away its secrets, you won’t have the same ridiculous reaction Pete and I had. What I can say is this, if you are a fan of outstanding, world-famous art, or mind-blowing architecture, or you enjoy peaceful, picturesque islands with stunning views across the sea, then you have to visit Naoshima.
…wins Pete’s award for the best building in the entire world.
I’m not going to lie, it is a bit of a feat to get here but I tell you this, the day we went to Naoshima has been the best day of our travels so far! We stayed in the city of Okayama which is north of Uno where you need to catch the ferry. The extreme annoyance we faced was that the train arrival times and the ferry times didn’t match up. When we arrived in Uno we had just missed a ferry by 10 minutes and had to wait 55 minutes for the next one. The ferry then took 20 minutes to reach Naoshima island.
There are shuttle buses around the island but we decided to cycle instead, the hire cost of a bicycle was 300 yen (around £2). Cycling around the tranquil island meant we had the freedom to stop when the view needed us to. We cycled down to the beaches where you can find numerous sculptures, many dotted around the island. Some points of the cycle were strenuous. The island is hilly, so make sure the brakes on your bicycle work as what goes up, must come down! The island is so quiet and peaceful, there are hardly any cars on the roads so it is perfectly safe to free-wheel down the hills!
We began our gallery tour at Chichu Art Museum. First you will be amazed by the minimalist architecture. Secondly, you’ll be amazed by the layout of the gallery rooms and spaces. Thirdly, when you think you can’t be amazed anymore, the artwork of Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria will just push you over the edge. When I initially saw the Monet work, I physically stopped. The whole experience overwhelmed me, to the point of welling up. It was a moment I will never forget. Not only has Chichu Art Museum won our award for the best gallery we have ever visited, it also wins Pete’s award for the best building in the entire world. (I don’t know what my favourite building is, so maybe it wins that too!)
Benesse Art Site was next. A museum-come-hotel, this would be my dream place to stay, but unaffordable on a back-packers budget. The museum houses works of Cy Twombly, David Hockney and Andy Warhol along with many other great names. This fascinating space takes you weaving between the outside and in. The guest rooms over-look the land and sea, with each room displaying art work. You can choose your room based on which works you wish to see, you can stay in your own little gallery. Everything here just felt new and unique.
The Lee Ufan Museum was another great stop on Naoshima. One piece of his work really stood out to me named ‘Relatum-Shadow of Stone’ (Natural stone, Acrylic, Projection). Showing within the shadow created by the stone, was a projected video of natural scenes. Without knowing the synopsis of the piece, I read the projections like the life story of the stone, starting with the sea, the sand, storms etc. It gave life to this concrete shape, making you realise everything we are surrounded by has been on a journey, whether that be this stone, or the artist who created the work.
The way he uses this brief to create these awe-inspiring buildings is mind-blowing.
A massive thank you needs to go to the architect Tadao Ando. His designs are based on the concept of ‘coexistence among nature, architecture, and art.’ The way he uses this brief to create these awe-inspiring buildings is mind-blowing. He has created spaces with specific artworks in mind, working hand-in-hand with the artists to display their pieces in a perfect way. Yet not to obstruct your views of this peaceful, colourful island.
You may be surprised to hear (Pete and I were) that Tadao Ando is responsible for the infamous concrete wall in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. This is due to be demolished. It just goes to show, the location of a building needs to be suitable for you to really appreciate it. His work on Naoshima island also uses concrete and simple shapes, but fits so perfectly within its surrounding that you only notice it as part of the artwork, not a block of grey in an already grey, wet city.
So, for someone who said I didn’t want to write too much, I may have just wrote my longest post yet. Do not worry, Naoshima’s secrets are still safe with Pete and I. Plus we ran out of time so didn’t get a chance to see everything! Naoshima Art Island appeals to my greatest passions, travel and art all wrapped up in one unbelievable place. I have to go back. Just… wow.
Note: Not all of the photographs on this post are ours. Photography is not permitted at the art galleries.