15 August 2016

Japan's Utopian Art Island

Benesse House, Chichu and ANDO are the trifle of museums that give this tiny island in the south of Japan its pizazz. The country’s best kept secret is so far removed from anything in the Western world, epitomising everything that Japanese design has come to represent; rid of distraction, open to interpretation and a core of calming cool. There’s everything from Warhol and Hockney to Twombly and Richter on show, but I’ve selected my favourites that are tucked away on the not-so-sizeable island, floating at a modest 5-square-mile.


Pumpkin (1994) by Yayoi Kusama at Benesse Art Site
Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin is something of a symbol of the island, gracing tote bags and travel mugs as well as being the star of the show in the island’s speciality dish – pumpkin pie. If you’re a Londoner or have a lot of of people from the city on the social media platform, a simple scroll through Instagram is bound to reveal a selfie in the mirrors of London’s Victoria Miro galleries. It’s the stage for Kusama’s latest show – the revival of her work garnering a lot of attention from a younger generation who appeared somewhat unfamiliar with it. Naoshima presents the original with rolling waves, blue skies and golden sand, plus none of the queues, overcrowding and noise of its London counterpart.


Open Field (2000) by James Turrell at Chichu Art Museum
James Turrell’s interactive installation challenges the simple element of light in every way possible with transformative use of space and colour. It’s been said that in order to understand his work, it’s essential that you experience it, and one person who appeared to completely understand it was Drake. “I fuck with Turrell. He was a big influence on the visuals for my last tour.” He proclaimed his Hotline Bling video the proof in the pudding. In this particular installation, the illusion reveals itself as you walk through the apparent canvas and into a light trip of sorts, marvelling over the mirage and breaking of sensory boundaries.


Water Lily Series (1915-1926) by Claude Monet at Benesse Art Site
Claude Monet’s Water Lillies series is composed of 250 paintings with Naoshima’s Chichu Art Museum housing 5. You enter a white room, the floor enveloped in tiny, gleaming white tiles and stand initially before Monet’s depiction of the waters of his French estate, feeling minute before its incomprehensible scale. You can examine the apparent nonchalance of the brush strokes, marvel in the colour tones of the delicate flowers and immerse yourself in the much-romanticised ponds of Giverny.



Time/Timeless/No Time by Walter De Maria at Chichu Art Museum
Illustrator, composer and sculptor are among the titles that New York City-based Walter de Maria can boast. His piece Time/Timeless/No Time takes pride of place in Chichu with a monstrous black graphite sphere being the centrepiece, accessorised by glimmering golden rectangles that stand to attention when illuminated by the natural light that trickles in from the skylight. The sphere is a casual 2.2 meters in diameter while the posse of golden forms stands 27-strong. His work straddles so many movements but remains uncluttered in its form: interactive sculptural installations provide conceptual underpinnings to larger-scale sculptural work and there’s a conceptual approach to earth-based works too, as well as the maintenance of minimalism.