The island’s artistic history starts with the Benesse Art Site. Benesse began as a dream by two men passionate about the cultural future of Japan and Naoshima’s potential to be an arts Mecca. In 1985, Tetsuhiko Fukutake, the founding president of educational publishing house Fukutake Publishing, met Chikatsugu Miyake the mayor of Naoshima to discuss the opportunity of developing a cultural and educational area on Naoshima. By 1992 the Benesse House Museum was opened and since then the company has continued to support and oversee the museums, installations and sculptures on Naoshima and its neighbouring islands.
In many respects Benesse House is considered to be the heart of Naoshima. Sitting on the southern coast of Naoshima Island, the museum and resort style hotel is the central point of Benesse’s art facilities. The complex includes a museum, oval, park and beach; all of which were artfully designed by the world renowned self-taught architect Tadao Ando, who was inspired by the area’s natural surroundings. The art museum sits atop a hill overlooking the Naoshima coast, and although the view is incredible, it’s what’s inside the museum walls that really reflect the island’s natural beauty.
Chichu Art Museum
The Chichu Art Museum is a unique modern art museum built into a hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. The museum has been built around a rather small collection of art. This creates a viewing experience that is heavily influenced by the surrounding natural environment.
Admission to the Chichu Art Museum requires advance reservations for a specific date and time slot and can be made online in English. Bags and cameras are not allowed in the museum and must be stowed in coin lockers before entering.
Art House Project
The tiny fishing village of Honmura, on the eastern edge of Naoshima, is home to the Art House Project, a collection of abandoned houses and workshops (as well as a temple and a shrine), that have been converted into venues and art installations by artists from Japan and around the world.
The Art Houses are scattered throughout the village, within walking distance of one another. Intersperse your visits with a coffee break or lunch at one of the handful of charming cafes run by a mix of locals and transplants from cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
I Love Yu
If Naoshima is ideal for blurring the lines between art and everyday life, there’s no greater example than I Love Yu – an art installation and public bath house (sento).
Designed by Japanese artist Otake Shinro, here, guests can actually bathe in art. Shinro’s mish-mash scrapbook style incorporates recycled objects unearthed from different areas of Japan. With paintings, posters, video displays, collages and ceramics adorning every inch of the building, from the toilets to the exterior, it’s a one-of-a-kind art experience.
The small Ando Museum is located in a traditional building in Honmura, diagonally across from the Minamidera art house. Upon entering the building, you will see that Ando has somehow interposed a concrete structure inside a lovely old traditional wooden house. There are a few displays of Ando’s work scattered about.