Sea of Seto, contemporary art in situ

An open-air museum

By arnaud In Stopovers

As soon as you set foot on the receiving dock of the island of Naoshima, the tone is set. Like a sentinel: a giant yellow pumpkin with black dots guard night and day the gate of the island. The sculpture is signed by Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusama, a star of his generation, courted today by the whole world. In the space of some thirty years, Naoshima, a small island of 3,500 souls, has become the Japanese temple of contemporary art, swarming gradually to neighboring islands and making the Sea of Seto Sea a true open air museum, the epicenter of Japanese creation.

Naoshima, Teshima, Inujima: the golden triangle of art in the Sea of Seto

Welcome to the Benesse Art Site, as it was simply called by its creator. His fortune, earned doing remote classes and educational manuals, a flourishing sector in Japan, has been largely devoted to Soichiro Fukutake’s “paradise”. A paradise of contemporary art, omnipresent here, and cleverly integrated.

On arrival: a string of three islands unique in this world, conceived as a showcase for contemporary art and praised by enlightened amateurs worldwide. The Japanese billionaire has entrusted the design of the main buildings to the Pope of Japanese architecture: Tadao Ando. Starting in a territory marked by his industrial background, the architect has played with high brick chimneys (including on the island of Inujima) and abandoned old houses to combine them with the magnificent nature of the islands of the Sea of Seto.

In the gigantism and the sobriety of the Naoshima Chichu Art Museum, you will discover the works of Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria, the three artists in the museum’s permanent exhibition. A little further on, after crossing the Chichu garden, inspired by Claude Monet’s Giverny, you will love the incredible scenery of the Benesse House, designed around the tension between architecture, work and nature. Niki de Saint Phalle, Dan Graham or Hiroshi Sugimoto are next to each other’s and are exposed, often in open air, next to many contemporary artists whose work was inspired by this exceptional place.

From Inujima to the must see Naoshima, through Teshima, contemporary art flourishes in the Sea of Seto as an evidence and is, by itself a great reason to prepare yourself to a cruise with Japan Yacht Charter! If you were not yet decided, the Setouchi Triennale 2016 should finally convince you! While the program can be seen here:

An artistic wander in the Sea of Seto in 10 must-see places: