This Japanese project turned three islands into a 21st century art enthusiast’s playground

IMAGINE you are given a remote island to build absolutely anything. How would it look like? And if you were also a billionaire and an art enthusiast, how would you carve out your utopian world?

Benesse House Museum
Benesse House Museum

In 1985, Tetushiko Fukutake (then-CEO of Fukutake Publishing Co. Ltd.) and Chikatsugu Miyake aspired to create a place for children from across the globe to gather. They saw potential in the islands of Seto Inland Sea for the project and eventually settled on Naoshima, an island town in which Chikatsugu was also Mayor.

The Benesse House Museum soon came to life, operating as both a museum and a seriously exclusive 10-bedroom hotel designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando. The house aimed to capture the idea of living in “symbiosis with nature, art and artchitecture”.

This marked the beginnings of Benesse Art Site Naoshima, a venture which would soon encompass art-related activities conducted by Benesse Holdings Inc. and Fukutake Foundation on the Japanese islands of Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima.

These guys haven’t stopped constructing their surreal projects since: from weird and wonderful installations to themed museums which spill over to nearby islands, the project continues to debut new creations every couple of years, and even spawns their own publication.

Notable additions to Benesse Art Site Naoshima include the Teshima 8 Million Lab which reimagines the mythical gods of the Shinto religion. Heck, there’s even a gallery with recordings of people’s heartbeats from all over the world called Le Archives du Coeur!

Miyanoura Gallery 6
Miyanoura Gallery 6

The structures which come to life through the project aren’t just for aesthetic purposes, they also act as communal spaces for over 3,000 inhabitants.

These include a public bath, as well as Miyanoura Gallery 6, a former amusement park turned event space.

Remember to head to these spaces to mingle with the locals, but know that all the activity and attention generated by Benesse Art Site Naoshima has also played a huge role in the restoration of important structures within the region.

Works to expect from a visit to these islands? You’ll be seeing a lot of contemporary art from the likes of Kazuyo Sejima, Lee Ufan, James Turrell, Christian BoltanskiHorishi Sugimoto and even Monet, to name a few. These works are spread throughout nooks and crannies of the island, breathing life to this once-sleepy fishing village.

There you have it; a cutting-edge recreational space of modern art and architecture like no other. Would you rather be anywhere else?

We’ll let the pictures do the rest of the convincing but if you absolutely need more, know that Akiko Miki, International Arts Director of Benesse Art Site Naoshima, will be visiting Malaysia to speak to local corporations about spending money on art.

So if you have any rich uncles or aunts, get them to drop by at Research and Conference in Facilitating Corporate Mecenat Activities and Establishing a Network in ASEAN Countries (RCFCMAENAC) at Le Meridien on 24 August 2016 and let’s Minecraft this dump!

Shiro Ontake’s MECON (2013)
Naoshima Bath House "I♥︎湯"
Naoshima Bath House “I♥︎湯”
Yayoi Kusama's Pumpkin (2006)
Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin (2006)
Shinro Ohtake's Dreaming Tongue/Bokkon-Nozoki (2006)
Shinro Ohtake’s Dreaming Tongue/Bokkon-Nozoki (2006)
inujima art project
Haruka Kojin’s Contact Lens (2010)
Yukinori Yanagi's Hero Dry Cell (2008)
Yukinori Yanagi’s Hero Dry Cell (2008)
Chinatsu Shimodaira's Ether (2015)
Chinatsu Shimodaira’s Ether (2015)
Lee Ufan Art Museum, architect Tadao Ando
Lee Ufan Art Museum, architect Tadao Ando
Sou Fujimoto’s Naoshima Pavilion (2015)
Sou Fujimoto’s Naoshima Pavilion (2015)
Inujima Art House
Inujima Art House

For more information about Benesse Art Site Naoshima, check out the official site! Pictures sourced from Benesse Art Site Naoshima Official Website, ArchiTravel and InDesignLive.

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