Sunday, August 31, 2014


When two of your taste-making, trend-setting, style-conscious friends suggest a place to you, you need to make it happen.  S and G had just been to Japan the month before, and S gave me a few of their favorite spots but really pressed hard on Naoshima Island.  It was out of our way, most of our days were already accounted for, but... I had to trust her on this one.  And, ohmygod, it was one of the BEST parts of a trip full of best parts.

Naoshima is an island with an industrial past that has been re-branded as an art island, thanks mostly to the Benesse Corporation.  It's also like a shrine to Tadao Ando, which you know I like.  We stayed at the Benesse House Hotel, which was worth every penny.  By staying there, you have access to the Benesse House Museum after hours, so you can have a nice dinner and a few drinks and then look at some damn good art.  Yes!

Besides the Benesse House Museum, there's also the Chichu Art Museum, which (please please please follow that link!) was also built by Ando (did I mention that all of the Benesse House buildings/museums were, too?), but is basically underground.

Oh shoot, I'll borrow a picture here:

See?  Built into the ground!  Ando for the win!

So the Chichu has a tight collection of art, but the best part of it by far was the Matisse room.  You take off your shoes before entering the naturally lit room and, I swear, those paintings just GLOW.  It is so wonderful to see them in a minimal space, it gave me new respect for Matisse and Impressionism in general.  The paintings looked so modern and fresh--and it was trippy to view them in probably the same light as he did while painting them.  WOW.  B and I found ourselves alone in this room for some minutes and it was one of those blissed out, how-am-I-so-lucky-in-this-life moments.  Because, check it:

You feeling me?

So Naoshima's basically this island with art scattered throughout.  But there are still many folks living there and going about their daily lives.  In the Honmura village, some of the old houses have been transformed by artists as part of the "Art House Project."  We went into a mind-blowing one by James Turrell and Tadao Ando, that my words won't do justice so I'll be brief.  You entered with a small group into a totally dark space, clinging to the walls until your guide instructed to you sit (and you trusted there was a bench behind you).  We all waited some time--I don't know how long--5 or 10 minutes and just watched while the space transformed before our eyes.  It was incredible, pure and simple.  After we all could "see," our guide led us to the front to have a better look at what was actually going on, though it wasn't entirely clear how it was executed.  Oh damn, it was cool!  I'm not gonna describe it so you have to GO THERE.

There is also a museum dedicated to Ando's architecture on the island that was pretty great, too.

And, of course, Yayoi Kusama's painted pumpkins.  The red one greets you upon arrival from the ferry, and the yellow guy is just outside the Benesse House.

Selfie with pumpkin.

Pumpkin hugger.

We wandered the grounds of Benesse House, just outside our room and found this nifty pavilion by Dan Graham.  How did I not know of him before?  Actually, not knowing about his work or his "pavilions" made the experience better.  We had enough time (i.e., there was no one else wanting to check it) to figure out the piece on our own, alone.  At first, we were all like, big whoop... until B went in the other side and then we realized what was going on and we had a daaaaaaamn moment.  We were transposed together, in the same space.  And our backgrounds were also collaged together.  I felt like a hologram!  Was I a hologram??  Oh man, we stood there for a while, just experiencing it.  Can we get one of these for the courtyard of our apartment building or something?  Hello, Mr. Graham??

And here's a shout out to the James Turrell piece that was in our room.  So nice to be trusted with good art.

The view from our patio.  The yellow pumpkin is just behind those trees.

We took a spot of bubbly here before dinner.  There were fish leaping out of the water, a Swedish family to our right (!), and you can almost make out the yellowy goodness of the pumpkin in the center back of the frame. *sigh*

We did a mini ceramics course (well, if you can call it a course if the instructor doesn't speak English and you don't speak Japanese) before we caught the ferry back to Uno.  It was nice to have a hands on art experience after being inspired by all of the real art.

Oh, Naoshima.  We will be back.