Naoshima Art Guide 2020

Naoshima is where this idea of putting “art on islands” has started in the late 1980s. Nowadays, the island is world-famous for its art sites and museums that are collectively known as Benesse Art Site Naoshima. Nicknamed the art island online and elsewhere, it is really only half of the picture as most of Naoshima’s economy and activity is located in the northern part of the island that is heavily industrialized. Art sites, on the other hand, are concentrated in the southern part only. It is the part that attracts visitors and the part we’re going to talk about here.
I have to warn you though, many guide books and people call the place “off the beaten path” but they must not have been there in a while. Nowadays, Naoshima welcomes close to a million visitors a year these days. The place is now world-famous and can be crowded at any time of the year. Plan accordingly.

  • Land area: 7.82 sq km
  • Circumference: 27.8 km
  • Highest Point: Mt Jizo, 123 m
  • Population : around 3,100 (around 1,500 homes)

Getting there

Naoshima has two ports where ferries dock (and a couple of smaller ones), Miyanoura on the west side and Honmura on the east side. You can reach the island from Takamatsu (Kagawa), Uno (Okayama) or Teshima (Kagawa). Large ferries only go to Miyanoura port and this is mostly where you’ll land on the island.

Getting around the island

If you have a lot of time and are in good shape, walking is definitely an option, it will take about 30 minutes to walk between most of the areas where artworks can be found.
You can also rent electric bicycles (or non-electric ones, just know that the island is not all flat). Keep in mind that they’re rented out very quickly on a regular day. Also, you can’t use them – or any other kind of vehicle – on the Benesse grounds (unless you’re a hotel guest).
There also are buses going around the island and to all the areas you may be interested in.

Art

As a rule of thumb, the first thing you need to know is that all artworks and art sites on Naoshima are closed on Mondays (with the exception of Benesse House Museum).
However, they are open when a holiday falls on a Monday (in that case, they’ll be closed on the following regular day – usually the next day).

Most artworks are free for children and teenagers under 16.

Almost all of the artworks on Naoshima belong to the Fukutake Foundation and are managed by its Benesse Art Site Naoshima branch. They’re all part of Art Setouchi and also take part in the Setouchi Triennale. If you’re a bit confused about the difference between all those terms (who wouldn’t be at first), I warmly advise you to read this article.

Note that in the following list, all art sites with numbers ending by B are directly managed by Benesse and pictures are not allowed indoors (among other rules you are required to follow).

Artworks on Naoshima

Miyanoura

na01

Red Pumpkin

Yayoi Kusama (2006)

  • Location: Miyanoura Port
  • Outdoor art, free access

Review: I think I like it more than its famous yellow counterpart, if only because it’s more interactive and playful.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

na02

Marine Station “Naoshima”

SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa) (2003)

  • Location: Miyanoura Port
  • Outdoor art, free access
  • SANAA online: official site

Review: Interesting building, but not the most fascinating thing you’ll see on the island. If you’re an architect you’ll probably find an interest that goes beyond its practical function as a terminal.
⭐⭐⭐

na03

Bunraku Puppet

José de Guimarães

  • Location: Miyanoura Port
  • Outdoor art, free access

Review: Meh. To tell you the truth, I had never really noticed it before it officially joined Art Setouchi. Apparently, it’s much more interesting at night as it’s lit and becomes colorful.
⭐⭐

na04

Naoshima Pavilion

Sou Fujimoto (2015)

  • Location: Miyanoura Port
  • Outdoor art, free access
  • Sou Fujimoto online: official site (English and Japanese), Twitter (Japanese only)

Review: At first sight, from the distance, it doesn’t look like much. Get closer, spend time around it, walk inside, find the right angles and the right lighting and suddenly its beauty will appear to you.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

na05-B

Naoshima Bath – I♥湯 (I love Yu)

Shinro Ohtake (2009)

  • Location: Miyanoura
  • Open from 1 pm to 9 pm every day except Mondays
  • Admission: 660 yen for adults, 310 if you’re under 16
  • Shinro Ohtake online: official site, Twitter (both in Japanese)
  • On the site: main article, more

Review: I’ve never been inside, but the exterior is full of small details. You can literally spend hours trying to find them all. As often with Ohtake’s works, this accumulation creates an improbable and almost fractal reality. Sometimes it looks too messy, sometimes it works. With Naoshima Bath, I think it works perfectly.
⭐⭐⭐⭐

na06-B

Miyanoura Gallery 6 – Setouchi「 」 Museum

Curator: Motoyuki Shitamichi (since 2020)
Architect: Taira Nishizawa (2013)

Review: This former pachinko parlor now hosts temporary exhibits. So far, I’ve liked the ones that I have seen (I missed a few). The place often showcases arts that tend to be under-represented in Art Setouchi (photography, writing, etc).
From 2020, Miyanoura Gallery 6 has a permanent (or at least long term) curator – Motoyuki Shitamichi – and will be the home of the Setouchi「 」 Museum project. I will tell you more about it as soon as I have more information.

Honmura

na07-B

The Naoshima Plan 2019 “The Water”

Hiroshi Sambuichi (2019)

  • Location: Honmura
  • Open: on weekends and holidays.
  • Admission: free

Review: I haven’t seen the new building as I’m typing these lines, but the Naoshima Plan has been an ongoing project by Hiroshi Sambuichi. It consists of renovating or rebuilding various houses and buildings in Honmura, some private, some public. Sambuichi’s trademark is that he integrates the local “forces of nature” (wind, rain, sun) to design his buildings.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (for the whole project, I haven’t seen the latest building yet)

na08

Naoshima Hall

Hiroshi Sambuichi (2015)

  • Location: Honmura
  • Only open to the public for special events
  • Free access
  • In the site

Review: This building, like all of Sambuichi’s buildings, deserves to be visited for a certain number of reasons. Spend time around it, get inside if it’s open to the public on that day, and you’ll see how it’s one of the most interesting buildings on Naoshima. Beyond its appearance, partly contemporary, partly traditional, the use of nature is what makes the building exceptional. In Naoshima Hall‘s case, the wind is used to naturally regulate the temperature. Tadao Ando may be the star of Naoshima, but in my opinion, Sambuichi makes more interesting buildings.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

na09

Naoshima Port Terminal

SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) (2017)

  • Location: Honjima Port
  • Outdoor art, free access
  • SANAA online: official site

Review: I have to admit that I don’t have any strong feelings about it either way. The shape is amusing, but it feels unfinished somehow.
⭐⭐

na10-B

Ando Museum

Tadao Ando (2013)

  • Location: Honmura
  • Open from 10 am to 4.30 pm (no admittance after 4 pm)
  • Admission: 520 yen
  • Tadao Ando online: official site (in Japanese)

Review: Not my favorite place on the island. The permanent exhibit is a retrospective of Tadao Ando’s works. The building itself is vaguely interesting. Note that you may have a different opinion, you have probably noticed that Ando’s works don’t usually speak that much to me.
⭐⭐⭐

Art House Project: Kadoya – Go’o Shrine – Minamidera – Gokaisho – Ishibashi – Haisha

na11-B Kadoya: Sea of Time 98, Naoshima’s Counter Window, Changing Landscape by Tatsuo Miyajima (1998, 1999)
na12-B Go’o Shrine: Appropriate Proportion by Hiroshi Sugimoto (2002)
na13-B Minamidera: Backside of the Moon by James Turrell (1999)
na14-B Gokaisho: by Yoshihiro Suda (2006)
na15-B Ishibashi: The Falls, The Garden of Ku by Hiroshi Senju (2006, 2009)
na16-B Haisha: Dreaming Tongue, Bokkon-Nozoki by Shinro Ohtake (2006)

  • Location: Honmura
  • Open from 10 am to 4.30 pm (last entry for Minamidera: 4.15 pm)
  • Admission:
    • Multi-site ticket: 1,050 yen (allows access to all sites but Kinza, see below – tickets are for sale at various locations on the island, mainly at the Honmura Lounge & Archive)
    • Admission for one house only: 420 yen
  • On the site: main article, more

Review: It really depends on the houses. In my opinion, Minamidera, Go’o Shrine and Ishibashi are unmissable.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you’re short on time, you can easily skip Haisha (⭐⭐), Gokaisho (⭐), and Kadoya (⭐⭐⭐). It really comes down to personal taste, though.

na17-B

Art House Project: Kinza – Being Given

Rei Naito (2001)

Review: A very unique place that very few visitors to Naoshima get to experience. Having an artwork for yourself is unique in itself, but Kinza is also a meditative experience that connects to the Teshima Art Museum in a very interesting and subtle way.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Benesse House Museum and around

na18-B

Benesse House Park

Architect: Tadao Ando

Artists in the building: Thomas Ruff, Antony Gormley, Hiroshi Sugimoto, George Rickey, Yoshihiro Suda, Teresita Fernández, Michelangelo Pistoletto

Artists with outdoor art are listed below.

na19-B

Benesse House Museum

(1992, 2006)

Architect: Tadao Ando

Artists :

– inside the museum: Jennifer Bartlett, Jonathan Borofsky, César, Dan Flavin, Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Tadashi Kawamata, Jannis Kounellis, Richard Long, Bruce Nauman, Shinro Ohtake, Nam June Paik, Jackson Pollock, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, George Segal, Yoshihiro Suda, Hiroshi Sugimoto, James Turrell, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Yukinori Yanagi, Kan Yasuda.

– outdoor, around the museum and on the beach: Karel Appel, Anthony Caro, Teresita Fernández, Antony Gormley, Dan Graham, Cai Guo-Qiang, Kazuo Katase, Yayoi Kusama, Walter de Maria, Kimiyo Mishima, Shinro Ohtake, Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Michelangelo Pistoletto, George Rickey, Niki de Saint Phalle, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Yoshihiro Suda, Hiroshi Sugimoto.

  • Location: south coast of Naoshima
  • Open every day, even on Mondays, from 8 am to 9 pm (last entry at 8 pm)
  • Outdoor works are always accessible
  • Hotel guests can visit the museum after hours (see with the museum for conditions)
  • Admission: 1,050 yen (free for hotel guests)
  • On the site: main article about the museum, more

Review: Actually, I’m not a huge fan of the Benesse House Museum (yes, I know, it can come as a surprise). I don’t dislike it either, but to my eyes, it’s no different from pretty much any contemporary art museum, this one just happens to be located on a small island in the Seto Inland Sea and not in a major city. Almost many people who know more than me about museography are telling me that it is just not that great overall in this museum.
On the other hand, I really love most of the outdoor works and the way they interact with their location (this time, the fact that they’re on a small island and not a big city matters).
Museum: ⭐⭐⭐
Outdoor artworks: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

na20-B

Lee Ufan Museum

Lee Ufan & Tadao Ando (2010)

  • Location: southern part of the island, in between the Benesse House Museum and the Chichu Art Museum
  • Open:
    • March 1st – September 30th: from 10 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5.30 pm)
    • October 1st – February 28th: from 10 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4.30 pm)
  • Admission: 1,050 yen
  • Hinomaple’s article
  • Tadao Ando online: official site (in Japanese)
  • Lee Ufan online: official site

Review: The building is quite interesting, however, Lee Ufan’s art doesn’t speak much to me.
⭐⭐⭐

na21-B

Chichu Art Museum

Tadao Ando, Walter de Maria, Claude Monet and James Turrell (2004)

  • Location: south-west of the island, in between Lee Ufan Museum and Miyanoura
  • Open:
    • March 1st – September 30th: from 10 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5.30 pm)
    • October 1st – February 28th: from 10 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4.30 pm)
  • You must make a reservation
  • Admission: 2,100 yen
  • Hinomaple’s article

Review: A most amazing place. This unique museum was built with and around the artworks that it houses, the building basically being one of the artworks. If you only see one thing on Naoshima, make it the Chichu Art Museum.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

na22

Labyrinth of Cherry Blossoms

Tadao Ando (2016)

  • Location: between the Chichu Art Museum and Honmura
  • Outdoor art, free access
  • For obvious reasons, to really be able to enjoy the place, you should visit in April.

Review: Not a big fan. The name is misleading, it’s not a labyrinth at all (which is highly disappointing so do not expect anything of the sort), and gravel on the ground makes the place feels urban (a shame as we’re in the middle of the countryside) and worst of all, it prevents any kind of hanami. I really don’t see what Ando tried to achieve here.

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