In the context of Art Setouchi, the Chichu Art Museum deserves a separate post. Located on Naoshima, which has been developing as a centre of modern art for years, this unique museum blends architecture, installations, sculpture and painting into a kind of modern Gesamtkunstwerk.
Chichu houses three permanent exhibitions, by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell. But first of all there is the building itself, an underground structure designed by Tadao Ando, built into a hill and lit entirely with natural light coming in through large open ceilings. The effect, which changes throughout the day, is of an intermediate space, halfway between inside and outside, between culture and nature.
Ando's minimalist, bare concrete architecture creates a fitting environment for the works by Walter De Maria and James Turrell. De Maria's monumental granite and wooden sculpture evokes a temple for some alien religion, while Turrell's sculptures of light and space again blur the line between art and architecture. Here, too, a religious metaphor is tempting, as if spectators are initiated into some advanced cult that worships pure light.
(Turrell's most impressive work, however, is located elsewhere on Naoshima. His 'Backside of the Moon', in a house designed by Ando, is a low light installation that - very slowly - turns the very act of seeing into a truly revelatory experience.)
Chichu's stark minimalism can be quite intimidating - to the point where one feels that merely being there ruins the aesthetic effect - which is why Claude Monet's 'Water Lilies' provide a crucial counterweight to the other works. Besides adding a welcomely 'messy' element to the otherwise immaculate surroundings, Monet's large canvases add an interesting historical perspective to the museum's stated concept "to rethink the relationship between nature and people".