This week’s dream
From island to island in Japan’s arty archipelago
Kusama’s pumpkin: A goad to the imagination
I have found, on a cluster of small islands, another Japan, said Isabel Choat in TheGuardian.com. Naoshima, Teshima, and Inujima together form “a unique art paradise”: They are home to 18 museums, galleries, and major installations that have helped bring a feeling of quiet contemplation to a stretch of the inland sea known as Japan’s Mediterranean. The transformation began when billionaire Soichiro Fukutake decided to invest in the three islands, which by the 1980s had become industrial dumping grounds. His first project, the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima, signaled the scale of his ambitions: The Tadao Ando–designed structure is filled with work by world-renowned artists—Warhol, Basquiat, Hockney. “Its most iconic piece,” however, sets the tone. Created by pop artist Yayoi Kusama, the giant yellow pumpkin sits on a pier downhill from the museum, “a surreal beacon jutting out into the sea.”
“There is enough art on Naoshima alone to fill two days.” Even so, it’s crazy that many travelers who manage to reach it don’t also visit Teshima and Inujima. The Inujima Seirensho Art Museum was built amid the open ruins of a copper refinery, and even entering the museum, by way of a long, mirrored corridor, “feels like walking through a dream.” Meanwhile, the Teshima Art Museum “turns the standard idea of what a museum is on its head.” Set amid rice terraces overlooking the sea, the otherworldly building doesn’t house any artworks. Instead, visitors sit in a domed chamber contemplating the sunlight that pours from overhead and the beads of water that bubble up from holes in the floor. “The effect is deeply calming. After 20 minutes, I practically float out.”
Nine additional islands participate in an astonishing art festival, the Setouchi Triennale, that will next open this spring. My favorite ongoing festival project, “and the one that seems to encapsulate the essence of the area,” was created by artist Saya Kubota and is known as the Missing Post Office. In a defunct postal station on the island of Awashima, visitors are invited to each write a postcard to any person, even dead or not yet born, but without including the recipient’s name. When the card is ready, a cheerful 82-year-old postmaster deposits it in one of many boxes hanging from the ceiling. And there it will stay.
Details about the Triennale can be found at setouchi-artfest.jp/en. ■