Chichu Art Museum
An unforgettable experience on a unique island.
If you only visit one place on the island of Naoshima, make it the Chichu Art Museum. Almost entirely built underground (chichu means just that in Japanese), it is considered one of famed architect Tadao Ando’s main masterpieces.
Naoshima is the island located in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea and in the Shikoku region that has been a contemporary art haven for more than 20 years and has gained international fame in recent years. Often nicknamed “art island” it is one of the twelve islands that host the Setouchi Triennale, a contemporary art festival that has become (in less than 10 years) one of the major cultural events of Japan. 2019 will see its fourth iteration.
At the Chichu Art Museum, on your way from the ticket center to the actual museum, the visit starts with a small garden that is reminiscent of Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. It is not a coincidence as the impressionist painter is one of the only three artists showcased in the museum. Five of his Water Lilies paintings can be admired in a room that was specially designed for them, in order to be able to experience them as the artist intended, in natural light.
Light is one of the main motifs of the museum as the second artist to have permanent residency there is James Turrell whose three works (Afrum – Pale Blue, Open Field, & Open Sky) heavily revolve around light and perception.
The third artist is Walter de Maria. His sole installation, Time/Timeless/No Time, takes up the largest room of the museum and is impressive by many accounts.
The three artists are the only ones you will find in the Chichu Art Museum and their exhibits are permanent, with no special or temporary exhibits, the museum having been built around and for those specific artworks. Indeed, for many visitors, the main attraction remains the museum itself. This underground maze of concrete provides a very unique, almost unreal and quite memorable experience for everyone — even if you’re not a contemporary art or architecture enthusiast.
Before leaving the Chichu Art Museum be sure to make a brief stop at the museum’s cafe, not particularly for its food or drinks, but for the wonderful view of the Seto Inland Sea that can be seen from its terrace.