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Peppered across Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, a constellation of unassuming islands plays host to one of Asia’s most ambitious and unique art initiatives. Around three decades ago, Japanese businessman Tetsuhiko Fukutake, along with then mayor of Naoshima, Chikatsugu Miyake, had the idea to create an arts centre as a way to attract tourists to an economically struggling region. With a goal to seamlessly merge art, architecture and nature, the first phase of the project came to life in Naoshima in 1989.

Today, under the umbrella of Benesse Art Site, the project and its offshoots span several islands, including Teshima, Inujima, Shodoshima, and Megijima. The best known of the islands is still Naoshima, which houses numerous outdoor, site-specific installations by some of the world’s most celebrated artists, as well as sprawling galleries, museums, and an elegant hotel — the majority of which are designed by Tadao Ando.

Paying a visit to Japan’s contemporary art mecca, Something Curated discovers more. Lensed by Keshav Anand.

The Lee Ufan Museum garden seen in twilight. Located in a valley surrounded by hills and the ocean, the museum provides a serene space where nature, architecture and art meet.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, The Glass Tea House ‘Mondrian’, 2014. Sugimoto’s work pays homage to the 16th century Japanese tea ceremony, perfected by Sen no Rikyû. If you go, be sure to make time to enjoy the tea and sweets on offer.
Benesse House Museum opened in 1992. Integrating a museum with a hotel, the striking concrete building, which overlooks the Seto Inland Sea, was designed by fêted Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
The Lee Ufan Museum was born out of a collaboration between the South Korean artist and Ando.
The glass steps of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Go’o Shrine, 2002.
The main shrine and rock chamber beneath are joined by the glass staircase — so the underground and overground form, as the artist puts, “a single world” together.
Boats docked by Honmura Port, on the island’s east coast.
Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, 1966/2022 — as the floating metallic spheres gently make contact, rocked by the water, the work is as much a sonic experience as a visual one.
A glass sculpture displayed at Hiroshi Sugimoto Gallery: Time Corridors.
Kan Yasuda, The Secret of the Sky, 1996, installed in a courtyard of the Benesse House Museum.
Bubble Bicycle Shelter by Pritzker Prize winning architecture practice, SANAA, Tokyo, installed in 2017.
Yoshihiro Suda, Gokaisho, 2006 — part of Art House Project in Naoshima’s Honmura district. The initiative invites artists to reimagine disused historical homes as immersive works of art.
James Turrell‘s Open Sky at Chichu Art Museum.
Inside the Ando Museum. The Ando-designed inner space, framed by unadorned concrete walls, infuses new life into a nearly century-old traditional wooden house.
Naoshima Bath “I♥︎湯”. Created by artist Shinro Ohtake, visitors are invited to take a bath on site.
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2022 — the most documented artwork on the island is surprisingly small in person. Following damage caused by Typhoon Lupit, a new version of the iconic 1994 sculpture was created for Benesse House Museum in 2022.

Feature image: Hiroshi Sugimoto, The Glass Tea House ‘Mondrian’, 2014

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