Naoshima, as many rural areas in Japan, had been dealing with depopulation, because more and more young people were drifting off to the big cities in search of better opportunities. That was until a project of economic and cultural re-boost of Naoshima came about, overseen and financed by the Benesse Group. The result is just extraordinary. The island's beautiful nature is complimented, rather than disrupted, by art museums built by Tadao Ando, and outdoor art commissions by the likes of Yayoi Kusama. Rather than flooding the space with important artworks, however, the people behind the Naoshima project focused on maximising the viewers' experience, giving each of the artworks its own space to speak to the people.
This can be felt especially in the Chichu Museum, an underground space lit entirely by natural light, where apart from contemporary art, a series of Claude Monet's waterlilies are also on display. Another favourite Naoshima spot of mine, or spots rather, was a series of original Naoshima houses entirely transformed into artworks called the Art House Project. (Haisha and Minami Dera were my favourite art houses.) I would not exaggerate to say that Naoshima was one of my life-changing experiences, and even the unbearably humid Japanese summer, and the crowds of yay-art tourists and pumpkin selfie takers could not spoil it.
YAYOI KUSAMA'S YELLOW PUMPKIN | BENESSE HOUSE MUSEUM | CHICHU MUSEUM | HAISHA (ART HOUSE PROJECT) | ANDO MUSEUM | YAYOI KUSAMA'S RED PUMPKIN