Getting Arty

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July 2nd 2011
Published: July 9th 2011
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And now for something completely different says the information pack,the modern art island of Naoshima.
Indeed different it is!
Naoshima is the home to the Benesse Art site which offers visitors the opportunity to see contemporary art in stunning natural settings. It is small inland sea island and is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area.
There are several galleries on the island and numerous pieces of outdoor art and scattered around the island, most notably the pumpkin sculpture (kusama Yayoi) that has become the island symbol.
Despite the searing heat (well into the mid 30s) I decided to check out the galleries and the coast line.
I firstly visited the Chichu art museum which is situated largely underground as the building designer refused to have an exterior design rising from the ground, wanting to keep in non monumental.
Despite it being underground it is all lit with natural light and provides an unusual yet remarkable setting for the work to be displayed...navigating your way round this building is a challenge in itself, despite it being small I got disoriented several times and struggled to find the exit (or maybe its just me).
On the approach to the museum you first encounter Chichu garden which is a garden of plants loved by Monet and what a beautiful sight it is. Vibrant colours and sweet fragrances greet you along the path to the entrance as well as some stunning large butterflies.
Once inside the museum there are strict rules to follow about no photography, no noise and no writing/drawing materials of any type. Housed in the museum are several Monet 'water lily' paintings all lit by the natural light and they are simply breathtaking.
Elsewhere there is a sculpture by Walter De Maria which is defined by specific measurements and its placement in the room is designed to change its appearance from sunrise to sunset.
The light installations by James Turrell were my favourites which presented light as art itself..Open field was my favourite but very difficult to describe.
Once I had located the exit it was on to the Benesse House museum which houses works by David Hockney and Andy Warhol amongst several others, again it is a no photo no noise affair but you get so engrossed in the art that you don't care by the end.
The outdoor works are all site specific and blend with the coastal landscape to provide wonderful photo opportunities. All of these exhibits are permanent as they have been designed by the invited artist for that location and that location alone.
Finally on my art tour I hit the Art House project which is located in the fishing port of Honmura. Basically a handful of traditional buildings have been turned over to artists to use for some amazing installations.
I didn't see all of them but did manage to find Kadoya which is in an old fisherman's house and where you would expect to find traditional tatami mats there is pond with coloured led lights floating on it.
I also managed to experience the stone chamber and glass staircase which made use of a traditional shrine as a location.
Another quirk of this area is that some local residents let visitors to the island use their restrooms while they are around the port,you just have to look for the wooden signs hung on the door!! I can't imagine that system ever working in the UK.
Hot and tired out from my day of art, I returned to my lodgings and watched a beautiful sunset over the harbour.
Truly Naoshima is a special place.... both thought provoking and beautiful!

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