On a recent trip to Tokyo we took the bullet train and headed to Naoshima Island, a location that we’ve wanted to visit for some time now. Naoshima (Art Island) is a small island off the coast of Honshu, Japan. The island is a long running collaboration between the Benesse Corporation, a variety of amazing artists and one of the most prolific architects of our time – Tadao Ando. We think Tadao Ando is a legend when it comes to concrete and minimalist architecture.
After multiple cabs, two trains, a fairy ride and a shuttle bus we arrived at the Benesse House, a compound that houses both a hotel and museum. On arrival we noticed the uncompromising execution of simplicity and harsh lines throughout the structure. Time allowed a tour of four sites on the island: Benesse House Park, Benesse House Museum, Chichu Art Museum and the Lee Ufan Museum.
Most of the sculptures had a subtleness to them that harmoniously complemented the island’s elegant surroundings. These precisely placed sculptures radiated tranquility allowing the mind to focus on the works and the environment they conceived. The harsh lines and attention to detail that Ando executed in his design of the museums was incredible, from his perfectly polished concrete to the placement of openings and the relationship to the shadows that they shared the space with.
The highlight was the Chichu Art Museum. The only materials Ando used on this structure were concrete, wood, steel and glass. All of the galleries were submerged as he refused to have exterior design protruding out of the surface. Though the structures were submerged, all of the works displayed were lit by natural light sources. The museum also featured works from Claude Monet and two of our favorite minimalists, James Turrell and Walter De Maria. Some of the other artists we were pleasantly introduced to were Lee Ufan, Kan Yasuda, Richard Long, George Rickey and Shinro Ohtake.
Although a short encounter, we left the island inspired as these world-famous artists’ works were such a beautiful juxtaposition of contemporary art and design that clearly defined our visit to Japan.