Naoshima is the most famous art island in the Setouchi Triennale. While you can visit at anytime during the year, it can be wonderful to visit during the Triennale if you have the time. Most of the artwork is centred in 3 areas, the Miyanoura area where the main port is situated; Honmura, a small village between the main port and the Benesse area; and the Benesse House Area.
na01 – Red Pumpkin
Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama is a trademark of Ms. Kusama. I loved visiting her art exhibit at the National Art Center, Tokyo, and if you know her dot style you won’t be surprised by Red Pumpkin. The reason I like this one more than the yellow version at the Benesse House Park area is that this one is more interactive and you can actually go inside of it and poke your head out of it too.
na02 – Marine station “Naoshima”
Marine station “Naoshima” by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa is the main port building on Naoshima in Miyanoura. It is a nice building but it hasn’t aged well for me. It is very modernist and simplistic but after seeing it so many times I have come to think of it as any other building in the area. It works very well but my only beef is that they didn’t design it properly to handle the hordes of people visiting Naoshima during the peak seasons. This is not a slight on the designers but a victim of the success of the island itself. It has become hard to enjoy this building as I believe it was intended to be.
na03 – BUNRAKU PUPPET
Bunraku Puppet by José de Guimarães is an curious artwork to say the least. He was also commissioned to do Flower and Happy Snake that is on every island of the Triennale but Bunraku Puppet is a single piece for Naoshima only. In the day the artwork is just a big blue artwork with a few rods inside. It wasn’t very special to me but looking at pictures of it at night makes it look more amazing and something that I’ll have to try to do in the future.
na05-B – Naoshima Bath “I❤湯 (I Love YU)”
Naoshima Bath, “I❤湯 (I Love YU)” by Shinro Ohtake is a pretty cool artwork that is a public bath house and artwork all rolled into one. I have yet to go inside this bath house as I am not one to enjoy public baths, but the detail and craziness of outside the building was more than enough to satisfy my art needs. I still crave to go inside and see what other craziness abounds but I was too shy to enter it every time I was there.
na10-B – ANDO MUSEUM
The Ando Museum is a really cool personal museum that highlights Tadao Ando’s accomplishments. The museum is housed inside an old building that has been completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside. The exterior still has the original look of the original building that is the basis of this architectural delight, but once you enter you are in complete Ando territory.
na11-B – Art House Project “Kadoya”
Kadoya by Tatsuo Miyajima is probably my favourite of the Art House Projects, although it is hard to choose from a few of them. Kadoya is all about time and you really have to go inside to love it. In a few short words, you walk around a small pond in the middle of a room with dozens of LED lights flashing what appears to be random numbers at various speeds and colours. It was amazing to watch and it was one of the art houses I wanted to visit again.
na12-B – Art House Project “Go’o Shrine”
Go’o Shrine by Hiroshi Sugimoto is a beautiful Art House and the most spiritual. There are two parts to this with the top area being the main shrine. It is a typical looking shrine but there is a path to a small cave underneath where you are in a dark cavern. There are glass steps that lead up and through to the main shrine making for an amazing experience.
na13-B – Art House Project “Minamidera”
Minamidera by James Turrell is another great Art House on Naoshima and a must visit. There is often a lineup to get in as they only allow people in as a group. You actually need a few minutes to explore this artwork as it begs you to get up close and interact with it, without touching it. Let’s just say that it reminded me of “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd for some reason.
na14-B – Art House Project “Gokaisho”
Gokaisho by Yoshihiro Suda is the only Art House that I cannot remember much if at all. I think there were some nice small trinkets inside but it was all pretty forgettable. Perhaps it is the fact that I visited this artwork in 2009 and I’m trying to recall it in 2019 without any photos to help me.
na15-B – Art House Project “Ishibashi”
Ishibasshi by Hiroshi Senju wasn’t a bad place but I wasn’t really impressed by it either. All I can remember is that there was a nice green courtyard with a nice seat in the middle and that’s about it. Obviously it didn’t stand out for me.
na16-B – Art House Project “Haisha”
Haisha by Shinro Ohtake is probably my least favourite of the Art Houses on Naoshima. It looks like a shake that a homeless man would build. It was a bit kitschy in my opinion but I can also see a lot of people who would actually love it. I really didn’t think the hodgepodge of things thrown together into this house worked as well as Mr. Ohtake intended. I do love his bath house for this style but I don’t know why I didn’t like it here.
Benesse House Area
na18-B – Benesse House Park
I loved the outdoor works in the Benesse House Park. I had a great time interacting with the artwork and being a fool as I took photos with them. Some of my favourite memories on Naoshima was visiting the various artworks in the outdoor exhibit area. It is all free to view and you can also take photos, which is a big plus for me.
na19-B – Benesse House Museum
The Benesse House Museum gave me mixed feelings when I visited. The first time I visited was in 2009 during my first trip to Shikoku and I was still pretty young and not very knowledgeable about Japan at the time, especially since I had almost 10 years of experience since then. The reality is that this museum is nothing more than a typical modern art museum that you can see anywhere else in the world. While some of the exhibits are unique in the world, others are derivative works that you can see in other museums. The collection is nice but not something that pulled me in.
na20-B – Lee Ufan Museum
Lee Ufan is a Korean artist and he has his own dedicated museum on Naoshima that was designed by famed architect Tadao Ando. The museum is the newest major museum on Naoshima having been built for the 2010 Setouchi Triennale. Overall I thought it was a good museum but not one that pulls me back for more.
n21-B – Chichu Art Museum
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.
New/Unvisited for 2019
- na06-B Miyanoura Gallery 6 by Taira Nishizawa & Yoichi Midorikawa
- na07-B The Naoshima Plan 2019“The water” by Hiroshi Sambuichi
- na09 – Naoshima Port Terminal by Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa
- na17-B – Art House Project “Kinza”
- na22-B – LABYRINTH OF CHERRY BLOSSOM by Tadao Ando
- na23-B – Sense in the distance by Chiyoko Todaka
The above is my own personal review of the art I have seen on Naoshima. If you want to be surprised by the art, I recommend that you do not read more than what is written here. Longer descriptions will be published over time and will be linked at a later time. Please keep an eye on my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for information when they go live. Photos may also give away part of the art, but in this post, they are minimal. Spoiler alerts in individual posts will be given when it is necessary for you to enjoy the art for the first time. If you will not be going to the Setouchi Triennale, feel free to follow the links and read everything and enjoy it as best as you can.