Yellow pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama on Naoshima Island

The Island of Naoshima – Art Around Every Corner

A giant polka-dot yellow pumpkin sits proudly by Miyanoura Port – a surreal beacon jutting out into the sea, which instantly sparks curiosity

The unusual sculpture, designed by Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusama, welcomes you to the small island of Naoshima. But this is just a taste of what this incredible island has to offer art and architecture buffs.

Known as Japan’s ‘art island’, until the early 1990s, the island was a remote and sleepy island, but it has gradually become one of the world’s most unique destinations for art lovers and travellers seeking one-of-a-kind experiences.

The change began in the late 1980s when billionaire businessman Soichiro Fukutake began exploring the smaller islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Fukutake wanted to transform three islands – Naoshima, Inujima and Teshima – and decided to do it through contemporary art and did so with his partners at Benesse Holdings, Inc

They created a unique ‘must-see’ rural art paradise, in an incredibly beautiful setting, with incredible buildings designed by the well-known Japanese architect Ando Tadao.

Here’s some of the highlights…

Benesse House Museum
Arguably the centerpiece of Naoshima, Benesse House Museum is perched high on a hill overlooking the sea. It houses the works of renowned modern artists Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cy Twombly. It was opened in 1992 and integrates a museum with a hotel, based on the concept of “coexistence of nature, art and architecture.”

Chichu Art Museum
Ando went on to create many architectural masterpieces on the island, including the Chichu Art Museum in 2004.

It was built mostly underground to avoid affecting the incredible scenery of the natural landscape. It’s an intriguing set of interlinked, half-buried buildings that house Fukutake’s personal collection of five Monet water-lily paintings.

Specially designed portholes mean the ever-changing natural light alters the artworks’ appearance throughout the day.

Lee Ufan Museum
This museum allows visitors to look at works of art in a quiet, still space. The Andro-designed semi-underground structure displays paintings and sculpture by Japanese-Korean artist Lee Ufan, a central figure in the minimalistic Mono-ha movement circa 1970.

The building is composed of three rectangular rooms built into the ground and the fun is finding your way around the straight-lined structure, with natural light coming in from the sky above.

And while you’re there, you’d be a fool not to visit the island of Inujima and Teshima too – just a short ferry ride away and just as inspiring. Three unique islands where art, architecture and nature intersect and live together in perfect harmony.