28 May 2010

Naoshima Island

Arriving by ferry to Naoshima Island, known as the "Art Island" of Japan, anticipation ran high. Naoshima did not disappoint.

The first night was spent settling into our tiny, traditional Japanese style guesthouse and taking a walk across the island to see a SANAA project, a simple yet impressive ferry terminal. Exquisite detailing, white, light-weight structure, impressively thin roof section; it was the quintisential SANAA project yet unique in both its setting and almost extreme simplicity.

The following day we took on Naoshima in full. The morning was spent wondering the narrow streets of the town we were staying in to visit six "art houses." A foundation purchased these spaces to then commission an artist to insert an installation in each of the houses. The highlights were the installations by Hiroshi Sugimoto the James Turrell (working with Tadao Ando), both providing memorable spatial experiences.

Leaving the small town and walking accross the island through the hills, we arrived at the Chichu Museum of Art. This is where attempting to transcribe the experience is difficult. The museum, designed by Tadao Ando, is sited uniquely in a hill above the sea and features work by three artists: Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter de Maria. The sequence of bunker-like spaces finished with Ando's signature concrete is a highly choreographed experience of light, darkness, sky, earth, and materiallity. In particular, the space for the Monet paintings feels almost unreal. The white space is bathed in diffuse natural light, providing an excellent presentation of the paintings. The floor is composed of thousands of minature cubed tiles, which gives the space a texture under bare feet (no shoes allowed of course). I could continue to attempt to communicate my experience of the museum, but this is one of thoes places that must be experienced in person. Also, no photos are allowed.

The day continued with at another Ando museum, though not nearly as impressive as the Chichu Museum, it contained a nice collection. The museum was similar in concept and siting as the Chichu Museum, but he clearly learned a lot from this project to then go on to produce Chichu. Descending from the museums in the hills, we arrived back at the sea. Public scuplture installations dotted the landscape. One in particular provided an ideal stage for a place to cool off with a savory....

The day ended with some pancakes at a seaside restuarant. Pork, cabbage, scallion, and udon pancakes to be exact.

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