Naoshima is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea with a population of a little over 3,000. But it attracts about 400,000 visitors a year with contemporary art museums, galleries and public displays.
It is known for a number of peculiar art displays including giant pumpkins placed outdoors and works of entire houses. One such bizarre but popular “art work” is Naoshima Bath “I Love Yu.” It is a public bath with its colorful exterior and decorative interior designed by Japanese artist Shinro Otake. Visitors can enjoy taking bath surrounded by a variety of art displays including the bath itself and the paintings on the walls.
The history of Naoshima as an art island is not very long. The development of the island in Kagawa prefecture took off after Benesse Corporation purchased the south part of the island in 1987. That was after the Japanese publisher’s founder and the mayor at the time agreed to turn Naoshima into a cultural and educational area for children in 1985. The continuous development has led to the openings of Benesse House Museum in 1992, the Art House Project in 1998, Chichu Art Museum in 2004, Lee Ufan Museum in 2010 and ANDO MUSEUM in 2013. All of the four museums were designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando.
Benesse House Museum is a unique complex facility of a resort hotel and an art museum. The art works are presented not only at the museum and in the guest rooms but also on the lawns and beaches around the buildings.
The Art House Project is a collection of the old houses converted into installation art works by artists in Japan and from abroad. In the Honmura district, there are seven permanent exhibits which used to be abandoned houses, a dentist office, a shrine and other buildings.
Chichu Art Museum presents the collaborative art with the building by Ando and the art works by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell. It only exhibits the works of the three artists.
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