For contemporary art lovers, Naoshima is one of the most talked about immersive experiences in the world. Home to unique ‘art-itecture’, a mixture of modern artworks and inventive building structures, this small island in the Seto Inland Sea is well worth a visit. The remote spot holds an extraordinary collection of works by the acclaimed Pritzker prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, so much so that it was often referred to as ‘Ando Island’ during its formative years. As soon as one steps aboard the ferry with the Yayoi Kusama inspired spotty decoration, the boundaries between nature, architecture and art merge, bringing to life the concept behind Naoshima.
Sculptures and installations are dotted around the centrepiece of the island, Benesse House, which doubles as a museum and accommodation. This hotel offers exclusive access to the museum after hours, once the day-trippers have disappeared, and guests can also soak in the striking views from this idyll during the day. The highest vantage point within the Oval wing overlooks the pastel blue sea, and nearby rural islands, whereas rooms at ground level look across the shore to Kusama’s iconic yellow pumpkin. Nearby, Chichu Museum is an art project in itself, designed by Tadao Ando with contributions from other architects and built into the hillside, so as to preserve the natural coastal views. Five of Monet's water lily paintings are mounted here in a magical, naturally lit setting, along with more modern installations by Walter de Maria and James Turrell. These interactive pieces of art play with light and space in original ways to evoke an almost other-worldly ambience.
Wander around, or rent an electric bicycle, to explore the old fishing village, discovering the various ‘Art House Project’ exhibits on a sort of art treasure hunt! These tucked away gems vary hugely and include Ando and Turrell’s Backside of the Moon collaboration in which mysterious artworks slowly appear out of total darkness as one’s eyes naturally acclimatise to the light.
The Lee Ufan Museum, renowned for its minimalistic creations, can be found here, as can the Ando Museum, showcasing his incredible designs. This is worth a visit, if only to admire the original architectural drawings and designs of the futuristic Church of Light in Osaka. If time, call into Japan's only bathhouse doubling as an art gallery, ‘I Love Yuu’, before exploring the installations on neighbouring Teshima and Inujima. The oval-domed architecture housing Teshima’s Art Museum is so awe-inspiring that it often moves viewers to tears.
The surreal artwork on Naoshima is sure to spark one’s imagination and have a memorable effect – artists would be hard pressed not to feel their creative juices flowing here! And for those that do not need to gain inspiration for new visions and projects, a visit to this atmospheric island is fascinating, purely to witness the unbelievable transformation of a once-abandoned fishing village reborn into a world renowned, one-of-a-kind ‘Art Island’.