Benesse Art Site Naoshima
Benesse House. PHOTOGRAPHY Tadasu Yamamoto.Shop
Yayoi Kusama, "Pumpkin". PHOTOGRAPHY Shigeo Anzai.Shop
Richard Long,＂Inland Sea Driftwood Circle＂/＂River Avon Mud Circles by the Inland Sea". PHOTOGRAPHY Tadasu Yamamoto.Shop
Left: Shinro Ohtake, "Shipyard Works 'Stern with Hole'". PHOTOGRAPHY Koji Murakami. Right: Kan Yasuda,＂The Secret of the Sky". PHOTOGRAPHY Tadasu Yamamoto.Shop
If you stand on the sand and look south towards Kagawa with the pine forests at your back, squinting into the sun against the glare of the diamond-patinated water of the Seto Inland Sea, you can make out a pier at the end of which stands a giant yellow pumpkin. This is no surrealist premonition swimming before your hungry eyes; it’s Yayoi Kusama’s cartoon vegetable, a beacon that draws people from around the globe on a pilgrimage to the Art Island.
The nine-hour door-to-door journey from Tokyo is a rite of passage in itself. As the shinkansen accelerates out of the towering gleaming city, speeding across paddy fields of flat water and low clouds, something inside you starts to slow down. Grinds almost to a halt. Life is simpler out here. It’s something you haven’t felt since long before you reached Narita Airport, in fact. Another train ride follows, then a ferry, and finally a bus winds round the hillside roads and we are here.
Tokyo is an attack on the senses; lights glare, tastes explode, slot machines waterfall, colours hypnotize, manners baffle. But it’s actually here in the serenity of Naoshima that you really discover the power of your senses, here where they have space to breath. Listen how that tiny mountain bird ricochets his call around Tadao Ando’s concrete chasm in the hillside, replying only to himself. Feel how utterly helpless you would be should Walter De Maria’s extraordinary spherical weight of bronze start rolling towards you of its own accord. Observe how the rarely seen Monet’s inspired the subtle planting of colourful flowers along the pathways leading to the gallery entrance, and the water lilies atop the brook; a detail that should you blink you will miss.
Discovery is at the core of Benesse House and Naoshima Island. In 1985, publishing entrepreneur Tetsuhiko Fukutake dreamt of creating a safe haven for children to adventure in and explore and along with Naoshima’s mayor, Chikatsugu Miyake, he created an educational and cultural oasis. Like a great children’s storybook that has one takeaway for its younger readers and another message for its older audience, it becomes apparent these two have inadvertently created an escape for all ages and mindsets.
House within the grounds and shared between Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House and The Oval, Ando-designed buildings all within walking distance, are world class works by Dan Flavin, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella as well as a roll call of top Japanese artists. James Turrell’s sunken white crater is as near to church as I will come in this lifetime. To contemplate the square of azure above you, and track the square of light as its stretches and compresses across the four white chalk walls throughout the day, is mediation on a higher plane. This is the place to forget your mind; to find your religion.