The Chichu Art Museum is a really cool work of art that is both a museum and an artwork in itself. The museum was designed by Tadao Ando and it is considered the crowning jewel of all of the artworks on Naoshima. It is also the busiest museum that has become so busy that they converted into an all reservation system since the first time I was there. It is well worth a visit, but I’m not sure I will ever return again.
The first thing you do when you visit the museum is enjoy the little garden that is outside. They have a small stream with some lilies that are supposed to be reminiscent of Monet’s artwork. I was not a big fan of art until I went to my first Triennale, but I have never appreciated Monet’s artwork as much as other people say I should. I consider it to be an over-hyped conundrum. I don’t care for Harry Potter and couldn’t care less, and Monet is in this range for art. I understand he is a great artist but it never really hit me in the same way it seems to resonate with a lot of other people. I will say that the small garden was pleasant but hard to appreciate if you are not there at the right season and with few people around.
Just a warning as the last time I visited the museum was in 2013, so my memory of the exhibits and the order you will see them is a very hazy.
Once you enter the museum, you head down into the depths. This is where you appreciate Tadao Ando’s work more and more. It feels a little like a labyrinth to get to the main area and the small square of grass was a bit confusing. At the time I didn’t know the museum was designed by Tadao Ando so I didn’t really appreciate what he had done. In hindsight I do remember being awed by the structure but also a little miffed at how confusing it was at the same time. I think it could also have been due to how many people were in the museum at the same time.
James Turrell is probably my favourite artist in the Chichu Art Museum. Open Sky left me speechless. It was a very simple design with a white room and a square opening at the top. It was nothing short of magnificent to see the clouds moving as if it was part of a painting. As you move around the room, you get different vantage points of what you are seeing and if there are light clouds you can just sit there all day and enjoy the ever changing artwork. Open Field is another nice artwork but it reminded me of his installation inside Minamidera of the Art House Project in the Honmura district of Naoshima. I actually preferred his Backside of the Moon (Art House Project) to Open Field (Chichu Art Museum). Lastly was Afrum, Pale Blue, a projection style artwork that was nice but completely lost to me. This was probably due to how busy the entire museum was and how you have to wait to see every artwork.
Walter de Maria’s artwork was probably the one I was looking forward to the most. I saw his other work on the island near the Benesse House Museum and was hoping to enjoy this one too. Unfortunately I was let down, but not because of the artwork, but because of my own perceptions of what I was expecting. The entire museum doesn’t allow photographs from what I remember so I wasn’t able to take pictures. I think this is where I was lost in the artwork. I really enjoy photography and would have loved taking photos of the different angles of the work. There is something playful about this artwork that just begged me to photograph, but like a little child being told by his parents that he couldn’t play, I was disappointed that I couldn’t enjoy myself. I completely understand their situation and feel no negativity towards Benesse, but I was sad that this artwork couldn’t live up to my own expectations. I’m sure you wouldn’t have the same problems.
As I said in the beginning, Claude Monet is extremely famous and there are several of his artworks in this museum. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into when I visited the Chichu Art Museum but to see Monet was not very interesting to me. Surprisingly I was more interested in the floor and room itself. Everything is naturally lit and on a sunny day the room is stunning in its white simplicity. The paintings were nice but the thousands of 1 cm diameter tiles were what intrigued me the most. If I’m not mistaken, each tile was hand placed and it was a very intricate work. It may not be as intricate as Zellige (mosaic artwork of Morocco), as it was just plain white tiles, but it was still amazing to see the craftsmanship that went into making it.
The Chichu Art Museum is a great place and I still think everyone who is on Naoshima should make an effort to visit. It was not easy to visit as when I visited they were still under the first come first served system. I actually had to wait over an hour to get in. You can thankfully explore the area in the meantime but now you can plan accordingly with their online system. I hope they have limited the visitors even more as I was not a fan of how crowded it was. It is a museum for any art buff to visit, but for this casual art appreciator, it isn’t on my top 10 for artworks, but it was definitely worth the effort to check it out.
- Chichu Art Museum (Official Site)