Jan 022018
 

January 2018

The Art House Project was a large leap into the lives of the locals of Naoshima Island.  There are many articles out about how the local people were not sure about the entire Benesse project, and how through the years they have learned more and more about contemporary art, and have learned to love the project, the art, and I am sure, the employment that comes with it.

The Art House Project involves older houses in the Honmura Port area of Naoshima remodeled into works of art.  There are seven projects, and photos are not allowed in any of them.

In the Honmura Port area is also the Ando Museum

The Ando Museum

The Ando Museum opened in March 2013. The museum is designed by the man it is named after, Ando Tadao, and is an homage to himself.

The Ando Museum looks like the regular, 100-year-old traditional residence that it is, from the outside, blending in perfectly into the town’s neighborhood. The inside of the building, however, combines traditional interior design with Ando’s signature use of concrete, creating a rather intriguing atmosphere with small unique spaces. The interior is truly a work of art in concrete.   Entry is ¥510 and is closed on Mondays – as is most everything within the Benesse Properties, with the exception of the Benesse House Museum.

For the remaining Art-Houses, you purchase a card for entry to all at ¥1030 or each individually for ¥410

Minamidera

Minamidera

Minamidera is a new building, and it was designed by Tadao Ando to accommodate the works of James Turrell. The vicinity was once home to five temples and shrines, as well as the ruins of a castle, making it the center of history and culture in Naoshima. The name Minamidera (literally “southern temple”) seeks to preserve the idea that the temples which once stood here were an emotional support for the people.

The Turrell installation is all about light, so if one is claustrophobic it is not a good house to visit.  It is an interactive exhibit and allows only 5 to 8 people in at one time, approximately every 15 minutes. During the holiday season, this was the only line I stood in, and that was for a mere 5 minutes.

Kadoya

Kadoya

Kadoya was the first building in the Art House Project to be completed. The house was constructed roughly 200 years ago, and it was restored to its original appearance with a stucco finish, smoked cedar boards (shou shugi ban), and traditional roof tiles. The townspeople of Naoshima participated in the creation of the work Sea of Time ’98 by Tatsuo Miyajima inside the main room of the home.

The Go'o House

Gokaisho

The name Gokaisho (literally “place to play go”) is derived from the long-ago custom of the islanders gathering here to play the game of go. Yoshihiro Suda converted the structure into an art space, and his work Tree of Spring, inspired by the work Falling Camellia by Hayami Gyoshu, is displayed in one of the two rooms.

Suda has several pieces throughout the island.  I first spotted his work in the Bennese House Museum, there appeared to be weeds growing out of the concrete wall, it was a lovely exhibit titled “Weeds” by Sudo made of painted wood.  The wood is so incredibly thin as to look exactly like a leaf.  In the hallway to the Terrace Restaurant is one of the camellias that is in Gokaisho.

A Camellia by

A Camellia by Yoshihiro Suda

Haisha

Haisha

Haisha, meaning “dentist”,  Shinro Otake converted this dentist’s home and office into a very intriguing work of art. The house incorporates an eclectic array of stylistic elements. The title of the work is Dreaming Tongue.

Ishibashi

Ishibashi

Formerly the home of the Ishibashi family, who made their fortune producing salt in the Meiji Period, it was used as a private home until April 2001. The salt-making industry supported the livelihood of people in Naoshima for many years, and restoring the home was considered important to understanding the history and culture of Naoshima. Hiroshi Senjyu spent five years from the original conception of the idea developing the entire space of this “tangible memory” into a work of art. Senjyu kept most of the home intact, and added his own paintings, it is in spectacular shape and is truly a work of Japanese architecture nicely blended with Japanese art.

The Go'o Shrine

The Go’o Shrine

This shrine sits atop of a hill, very close to a working temple.  It is a stunning piece of artwork. The artist is Hiroshi Sugimoto  A flight of glass stairs links an underground stone chamber with the main hall. The main hall and worship hall   are based on the style of early shrine architecture, as well as the artist’s own aesthetic sensibility.

A beautiful set of glass stairs is easily seen above ground

A beautiful set of glass stairs is easily seen above ground

Naoshima Go'o shrine

You are then given a flashlight and sent slightly down the hill to a very, very, very narrow corridor.

The stairway underground

The stairway underground

These wonderful pieces sit amongst the small town of Honmura.  Honmura is a wonderful area to wander and explore.

Naoshima Hall

Naoshima Hall

Naoshima hall, designed by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi is a multi-purpose facility, consisting of a main hall, a community center, and a garden. It utilizes the island’s prevailing winds to circulate air inside the hall

The hall took the top spot in the Best New Public Building category of the 2017 Wallpaper* Design Awards, presented by the British magazine of the same name. This was the first time that a Japanese architect had received the award.

Naoshima I love hot waterOne other exhibit space is at Miyanoura Port titled Bath House.  It is actually a bathhouse, and the only way to view the art inside is to take a bath, but the building is fun to examine from the outside as well. The facility was created by artist Shinro Ohtake and is operated by the Town-Naoshima Tourism Association.  The place is actually called  “I♥︎湯” and is a play on words, the Japanese character for hot water (湯) is read as yu.

Naoshima Art *I love you bath house *Naoshima Bath

Due to the season, many of the art galleries are closed, but it is still easy to get your fill of art and architecture at Benesse.

The town of Miyanoura is also a very sweet town and worth walking around, here are a few shots of that town:

The local shrine, directly across from the port is lovely and historic

The local shrine, directly across from the port is lovely and historic

Not far from the port is a cemetery.  It was the New Year so flowers were everywhere.

Not far from the port is a cemetery. It was the New Year so flowers were everywhere.

Watering vessels at the cemetery

Watering vessels at the cemetery

Someone's stunning front yard

Someone’s stunning front yard

Flowers are doorsteps are classically Japanese, I loved these accompanied by seashells.

Flowers are doorsteps are classically Japanese, I loved these accompanied by seashells.

I will end this post with some fun photos taken around the Honmura area.

Honmura, Naoshima *Naoshima

Naoshima Critters These critters are all over townNaoshima CrittersI found this sign in one store, I hope it tells you the artists name, but I don’t read Japanese.
Naoshima Critters

dsc_2920 *Honmura, Naoshima *dsc_2916 *dsc_2913 * Honmura, Naoshima*

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I stayed in Benesse for a total of 5 days, and it was most likely one day too short.  I would have liked the opportunity to visit the island of Inujima, but it was closed for much of the time I was in the area and cramming it into the one day it was open and I had time, simply became unfeasible.

Benesse is truly an amazing experience and a must for anyone that loves architecture or art.

Jan 022018
 

January 2018
Benesse – To Live Well

Pumpkin by Yoyoi Kusama is the signature piece of Naoshima Island. The Yellow Pumpkin sits on a pier in front of the Benesse Park Hotel

“Pumpkin” by Yoyoi Kusama is the signature piece of Naoshima Island. The Yellow Pumpkin sits on a pier in front of the Benesse Park Hotel

The biggest employer on Naoshima is a Mitsubishi metals processing plant, but due to automation, and therefore, downsizing, the population of the island dropped from around 8,000 in the 1950s and 1960s to a little over 3,000 now.

The island has been “saved” by art thanks to Benesse Holdings, an education, and publishing conglomerate best-known for Berlitz, the language school company.

The Bennese Park Museum houses one of the larger restaurants, The Terrace, as well as a few small rooms for hanging out and gazing at the sea. Cylinder Bisected by Plane by Dan Graham sits in the middle of this photo

The Benesse Park houses one of the larger restaurants, The Terrace, as well as a few small public rooms for hanging out and gazing at the sea. “Cylinder Bisected by Plane” by Dan Graham sits in the middle of this photo

Looking out from the 2nd floor of the Benesse Park to the Terrace Restaurant and Benesse Beach

Looking out from the 2nd floor of the Benesse Park to the Terrace Restaurant and The Beach Hotel

According to Becoming, a book on the creation of Benesse, Benesse opened with the aim of providing visitors with a luxurious stay surrounded by works of art in a natural environment. The former head of Benesse Holdings, the late Soichiro Fukutake, had dreamed of opening a campground for children from all over the world, he met with the then town mayor of Naoshima, the late Chikatsugu Miyake who had wanted to create an environmentally friendly cultural and educational district in the southern part of the island.  These two men formed a mutual agreement to develop the island of Naoshima. Activities commenced with a trial camp for children, operated by employees of Fukutake Publishing. The off shoot of this was Fukutake’s company buying a huge piece of land and hiring world-famous architect Tadao Ando to design museums and luxury lodgings that now make up the Bennese Art Site. 

One part of "Shipyard Works" by Shinro Ohtake

One part of “Shipyard Works” by Shinro Ohtake

The first art project for the site was Open Air ’94 Out of Bounds, organized as an outdoor exhibition space in 1994. Out of Bounds referred to the crossing of borders in hope that Naoshima be linked to the rest of the world.  Pumpkin (the yellow one) by Yayoi Kusama was debuted in this exhibition, as well as Shipyard Works by Hinro Ohtake and Time Exposed by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

There are four places within the Benesse properties to stay.  The Oval, The Park,  The Beach and The Benesse House Museum. Each has their own unique flavor and varying prices.

Dining is difficult, there are a few restaurants on the island, but the hotels have several dining rooms, and while pricey, the food is world class.  You can choose between Japanese or European cuisine in many of them.  Others are fixed menus by phenomenal chefs.

There are other less pricey places to stay on the island, off of the Benesse properties, and the entire island is accessible by a free bus if you are staying within the Benesse properties or a ¥100 public bus.

There are ten rooms available within the Benesse House Museum, and you are allowed to wander the hotels after closing to enjoy the art.

There are ten rooms available within the Benesse House Museum, and you are allowed to wander the hotel after closing to enjoy the art.

The Oval sits atop the highest peak on Naoshima. It has only 6 rooms, all with spectacular views. Access to the oval is through a funicular that requires your room key for access, making The Oval a very private retreat.

The Oval sits atop the highest peak on Naoshima. It has only 6 rooms, all with spectacular views. Access to the oval is through a funicular that requires your room key for access, making The Oval a very private retreat.

Water flows from the streams above the Oval, through the eternity pool in the middle of the structure and out to sea.

At The Oval water flows down a water fall and into an eternity pool suggesting the concept of water flowing from the mountain streams to the ocean.

The Oval at Benesse on Naoshima Island

Every room in all of the accommodations have fine art in them. This particular one is in the Oval by David Tremlett

Every room in all of the accommodations has fine art in them. This particular one is in The Oval and painted directly on the wall by David Tremlett.  Many of the others contain framed drawings or paintings.

The Benesse Art Site group has truly thought of everything.  You are handed reams of information upon check-in, and every staff member I have encountered is well versed in all the ins and outs of the island.  English is spoken by most everyone, and in fact, it is now been added to the school curriculum on the island.

One of the inner-island ferries in Miyanoura Port

One of the inner-island ferries in Miyanoura Port

There are two ports on Naoshima, and getting here is done via ferry from Takamatsu to the Miyanoura Port, there are five throughout the day, with more added during the summer. Timing your arrival to and from the airport should be taken into consideration.  The ferry ride is ¥510. There are locals that take cars onto the island, via the car ferry, but most transportation is bike, moped, feet or public bus.

Blind Blue Landscape is a site-specific work by Teresita Fernandez in the corridor to the Terrace Restaurant

Blind Blue Landscape is a site-specific work by Teresita Fernandez in the corridor to the Terrace Restaurant

I am here during the Christmas/New Year holiday season.  That is considered high season price wise, but it is a divine time to come as the crowds are minimal.  The hotels are full, but no reservations are needed for the exhibits, and a wait of 10 minutes for a timed exhibit is all I have suffered.  In 2016, 800,000 people visited the island for the Triennial, I can not imagine fighting that type of crowd.

These two boats are part of a piece by Jennifer Bartlett. There is a three part canvas in the museum with the two boats painted, and two of the boats sitting on the floor in front, then as you look out the glass towards the sea, there are these two boats set in the same position on the same beach that is in the painting

These two boats are part of a piece by Jennifer Bartlett. There is a three-part canvas in the museum with the two boats painted, and two of the boats sitting on the floor in front, then as you look out the glass towards the sea, there are these two boats set in the same position on the same beach that is in the painting

Photography is not allowed in any of the museums, so a purchase of the book Remain in Naoshima, is the best guide to the collection, however, there are many outdoor installations that can be photographed.  The lack of descriptions of the art was the only place I feel they missed a beat. Most pieces were marked solely with the name of the piece, the date, and the artist.  The book Remain in Naoshima is in each room, so studying the pieces is easy if you are so inclined, but the stories to many of the pieces are of interest, and much I did not learn until I returned to the room and flipped through the book.

The view from room 405 of The Oval

The view from room 405 of The Oval

Chichu Museum

The Chichu museum (literally museum underground) is another Tadeo Ando creation, built in 2014 it is on the southern portion of the island. The building is a stunning piece of architecture all by itself. The site features only three artists, with permanent installations, these are by Walter De Maria and James Turrell, as well as painted works in the Water Lilies series by Claude Monet.  These are said to be the only paintings by Monet that can be viewed in natural light, and you take your shoes off to enter the gallery. – Tickets for the Chichu Museum are ¥2060, you purchase a ticket at a small building then walk through a sweet little garden to reach the entryway to the actual museum.

The Lee Ufan Museum

The Lee Ufan Museum

Opened in time for the 2010 Setouchi Triennale, the Lee Ufan Museum is one of the more recent additions to the Benesse collection. The museum features works by the Korean contemporary artist Lee Ufan, who was born in Korea but has been working and teaching in Japan. On display are large installations made of stone, concrete and huge slabs of iron, as well as a number of paintings from earlier in his career. This building was also designed by Tadeo Ando, and like his other buildings, it is filled with different geometric shapes in reinforced concrete and stunning outdoor spaces. The entry to the Lee Ufan Museum is ¥1030.

The entry to the museum is on the right hand side of the building as to not disturb the elegance of the front.

The entry to the museum is on the left-hand side of the building as to not disturb the elegance of the front.

Just before entering you encounter this pottery piece by Ufan, after that, no photos are allowed.

Just before entering you encounter this pottery piece by Ufan, after that, no photos are allowed.

There is a huge selection of outdoor sculptures spread throughout the property, you can pick up a map from any of the front desks and enjoy the day wandering and seeking them out.

The stairway goes up and over Seen/Unseen Known/ Unknown by Walter de Maria. This sits near the Benesse private pier with other outdoor sculpture

The stairway goes up and over Seen/Unseen Known/ Unknown by Walter de Maria. This sits near the Benesse private pier with other outdoor sculpture

The red pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama greets you at the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal

“Red Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama greets you at the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal

Looking down at Pumpkin from The Oval

Looking down at “Pumpkin” from The Oval

This post has been about the Bennese Art Site, read the next post for information about the town itself, and more art.

Dec 312017
 

December 2017

Teshima is a rural island in the Seto Inland Sea that, with the nearby islands of Naoshima and Inujima has become a destination for contemporary art. The island also serves as one of the venues of the Setouchi Triennale art festival that is held in the region.

The building that houses Les Archives de Coeur by Christian Boltanski

The building that houses Les Archives de Coeur by Christian Boltanski

The main attraction is the Teshima Art Museum, but there are other exhibits as well.  It was winter when I visited, so many were closed, but that also meant, what was open had easy access (no lines).

One of the other permanent artworks on the island is Les Archives du Coeur (“Heart Archives”), it is located in a small building along the beach in the eastern outskirts of the Karato port area. For ¥510, it is one of the multiple locations across the world where visitors can make recordings of their heartbeat and listen to the recorded heartbeats of other people in a slightly unnerving environment. French artist, Christian Boltanski is the creator of the project and has been doing this since 2008.

When you enter the gallery it is dark, the small light bulb goes on with each heart beat. It takes a very strong beat to actually light the room enough to see the walls.

When you enter the gallery it is dark, the small light bulb goes on with each heartbeat. It takes a very strong beat to actually light the room enough to see the walls.

I had gone in and thought to record your heartbeat a little weird.  However, after you leave the main exhibit hall there are small computers with high-grade earphones to listen to other heartbeats, you choose the country and the person, it is weird, and in fact it is a little spooky, but after walking out and staring at the sea I realized it was an opportunity to be part of an actual art exhibit, so I walked back in and paid my ¥1540 and put myself into the exhibit via a quick recording.  That seems like a bit much (around $15US) but you walk away with a CD of your heartbeat (an outdated mode of recording) packaged in a stunning box, that is, in itself, a small piece of art, so it was worth it, to me.

All the glass in the house is red, creating a perfect environment inside for the art.

All the glass in the house is red, creating a perfect environment inside for the art.

The other large exhibit that was open during the winter was the Teshina Yokoo House (¥510).  This, like the Teshima Art Museum, is one of the more moving exhibits I have seen in a very long time.  While the art was contemplative, the building was stunning. The house is a  collaboration between artist Tadanori Yokoo and architect Yuko Nagayama. The project was created by altering and renovating an old private house located the Ieura District. The exhibition areas are divided into a “Main House,” a “Warehouse,” and an “Outhouse”.

Photos are not allowed inside, and overall shots of the exterior are hard to get from the narrow streets, but this is the entry to the home.

Photos are not allowed inside, and overall shots of the exterior are hard to get from the narrow streets, but this is the entry to the home.

The most moving space is the silo-like structure.  It appeared at first to be something you simply look into.  It took the docent to tell me you could actually enter the space.  The juxtaposition between the glass floor and the darkness completely fool the eye.  Once inside it is hard to leave, it is filled with old postcards right up to the top and is such a warm and comfortable space to enjoy, it was a very memorable experience.

The mosaic stream, filled with koi, continues under the house. It can be enjoyed through the glass floors.

The mosaic stream, filled with koi, continues under the house. It can be enjoyed through the glass floors.

As I mentioned much of the sites are closed during the winter, but you will trip over outdoor pieces.  A really fun one, that looks like it belongs there because it is on a playground. Installed for the 2013 Triennale, it is by Spanish artists Jasmine Llobet and Luis Fernandez Pons.

No one wins - Tashima Triennial“No one wins – Multibasket” creates a place where both the local residents and visitors can simply play basketball. There are multiple hoops and players must use their imagination and make up their own rules.

As you wander the island you come across the rice fields that are being brought back to life with the help of the Tashima Art Museum

As you wander the island you come across the rice fields that are being brought back to life with the help of the Tashima Art Museum

Everyone's yards were filled with various types of citrus trees. These consisted of Lemons, Mandarins and Iyolans.

Everyone’s yards were filled with various types of citrus trees. These consisted of Lemons, Mandarins, and Iyolans.

I always enjoy viewing temples when I can, there are several on the island, but this one was truly special

Temple viewing in Japan is always a joy

Temple viewing in Japan is always a joy

temples of Japan

On an island with a fishing industry, a fish Kami seems to me to be a normal thing to see at a shrine.

dsc_2799

*The Teshima Bulletin Board

Getting to Teshima requires some planning, the ferries only run a few times a day.  A good 5 hours should be allotted to the island, and remember I was there in the winter when the lines were either very, very short or non-existent.

Once you arrive there is an easy to miss area with bike rentals and a gift shop.  Here you will find the Teshima Guide that tells you everything that is open or closed for the day.

Renting bikes is the best way to get around the island, you can get an electric one if the hills are intimidating for you. Otherwise, for ¥100 per ride (about $1US), you can hop on the local bus.  It also doesn’t run very often, but walking is very easily supplemented with a few bus rides to cover the longer distances between ports.

The Tobas Rehberger house, in the Ieura port area was closed for the winter.

The Tobias Rehberger house, in the Ieura port area, was closed for the winter.

Tobias Rehberger is a German artist that does full exhibit installations with optical illusions. This is one of the permanent collections that was closed for the winter

The Needle Factory

Also in the Ieura area is the Needle Factory, another permanent exhibit that is closed for the winter.

Artist Shinro Ohtake takes an abandoned sewing needle factory and inserts and abandoned fishing boat for a full-size statement.

Teshima, Japan

Teshima is a wonderful island, strolling is easy, and art is accessible.  One will go for the Teshima Art Museum, but there is oh so much more.

Dec 302017
 

December 30, 2017

Teshima Art Museum

Teshima is a small island in the Inland Sea of Japan.  It had suffered economically until the Benesse Group, founded on the island of Naoshima, started turning the surrounding islands into art and architecture havens.  I began this adventure on the island of Tashima, and in particular with the Tashima Art Gallery, because it is December 30th and the gallery closes for the first week in January.

The Teshima Art Gallery is actually an art installation extraordinaire.  There are no photos allowed inside, and as a photographer, even I had to agree with the policy.  The building is a stunning meditation space with water as a medium.

However, the official photographer Noboru Morikawa has photos on his website.   I have borrowed one from his site, but it still does not give you any sense of the wonder of this museum.

Teshima Museum

I was drawn to the museum for its architecture, and that is a wonder unto itself. The architect is Ryue Nishizawa

According to the website:
“Structurally, the building consists of a concrete shell, devoid of pillars, coving a space 40 by 60 meters and with a maximum height of 4.5 meters. Two oval openings in the shell allow wind, sounds, and light of the world outside into this organic space where nature and architecture intimately interconnect. In the interior space, water continuously springs from the ground in a day-long motion….The museum, which resembles a water droplet at the moment of landing, is located in the corner of a rice terrace that was restored in collaboration with local residents.”

Before you enter you are told to be careful where you step.  Most obviously you are told of small pieces of pottery, but you are also told that the water droplets are part of the installation.  This seems silly until you enter the space and realize the water droplets are a huge part of the installation.  In fact, they are what it is all about.  Water is pushed through very small holes via the small pieces of pottery or extremely small holes in the ground.  They then traverse across the space, joining together organically and then disappearing with a wonderful “quiet water down the drain” sound.  All of this spectacular mind-blowing art is from the artist Rei Naito who worked in very close collaboration with Ryue Nishizawa to create a space that must be experienced to understand.

There are countless articles from Architectural and Art magazines that can be cited here, there is no point, you simply must experience this space personally if you ever have the opportunity to be in Japan.

Even the walkway to the museum is a work of art

Even the walkway to the museum is a work of art

Teshima, Benesse

Looking out onto the inland Sea of Japan

Looking onto the first opening which is on the entryway side of the museum

Looking on to the first opening which is on the entryway side of the museum.

Teshima Art Museum Benesse

The entry to the museum. They limit the number of people that can enter at a time, and you must take off your shoes to go in.

Teshima Art Museum

The Art Space of Teshima Art Museum is a shell-structure that is thought to be the lowest building in history, with a height of only four and a half meters and a thickness of only twenty-five centimeters.  There are two skylights in the ceiling.  The water-drop-shaped floor measures forty by sixty meters and there are no interior supports.

Such a structure is possible today because of technology, and in no way could have been achieved in an earlier era.  Using special software Matsuro Sasaki conducted the structural calculation in such a way that there would be no straight lines in the entire design.  The concept was realized by the advanced technology of Kajima Corporation.

To realized the design, soil from the site was mounded and coated with mortar. Next, double iron reinforcing frames for concrete were assembled on the mound.  It took twenty-two hours overnight in the middle of winter for 120 concrete mixers to pour the concrete over the mound, which was left to dry for five weeks.  Finally, it took six weeks to dig out the soil from inside the new concrete shell.- From the Curator’s Notes