Off the main coast of Japan, on a small island lies an art gallery like no other. The building gives the visitor such an experience that any pre-existing ideas of art and architecture are challenged so severely, that the end result is one of bewilderment and admiration.
The museum is set into a hill, so as to not disturb the natural beauty of the island. Its most fascinating feature is that only natural light is used throughout.
Unfortunately, no photography was allowed within the museum (apart from a few sneaky ones on exit). It is space I would highly recommend visiting and experiencing for yourself but for those who can’t, let me take you inside with words.
A path leads you gently up a hill, a concrete wall juts out of the hillside. You notice the trademark Ando precast concrete blocks. The path seems to end in the greenery but as you approach you notice an opening in the wall on the side.
You enter and are suddenly within the hill, underground. A dim passageway guides you further in, where an opening reveals a square courtyard of high concrete walls reaching up to an open sky, whilst a bed of green leafless plants carpet the floor.
Darkness once again, before another sky flooded passageway. The shadows are beautiful in such a grey space.
You reach the shop and continue into the hill. Severe darkness before you make a turn around a wall. You stop. For a moment you forget to breathe. Out of the darkness you are suddenly outside again and high up in a triangular courtyard. One of the walls leans inwards. The floor, many meters below is an arrangement of unsmooth rocks the same colour as the concrete which is everywhere, except for the opening of the sky. You feel unnerved but are unsure why.
Darkness, steps, the outside light of the courtyard, steps, down and once more inside the darkness of the hill. A museum guide dressed in beige grey gestures you into a room.
Walter De Maria’s artwork greets you in a large space. The ceiling floats above, disconnected from the walls. Shadows and light are cast along the sides of the room. The walls are Ando. There is no way to seperate the art from the architecture, it exists as one.
Outside, a gentle ramp guides you back up and along the sides of the triangular courtyard. Following you is a slit in the wall which allows changing views of the courtyard. A young boy whispers behind you.
The darkness and James Turrell’s blue projected light. More darkness and turns around walls. Bright light once again. You enter a room of high walls with a bench along its edge. You want to look up at the light source but it is too bright. You sit and enjoy this space, and can hear birds somewhere.
The darkness of underground again, all the more severe after being in the bright light of day. You take off your shoes to enter the third work by Turrell. Steps lead up to a blue screen, which you enter. The blue light dissolves time and space.
Back into a semi-dark space, you change into white slippers. The view beyond the entry is blocked by an angled wall. Light seeps from beyond. The floor surface has changed to small white tiles of marble with splashes of grey.
A lit up entrance to another room comes into view and inside against its back wall, you see one of Monet’s largest water lily paintings in the world. You leave the first room of low ceiling and walk into the light. The tiles ground you in an otherwise white room, the corners are rounded and a high ceiling floats squarely above. Five paintings of colour transport you to gardens of water and flowers. You realise you are seeing the paintings as they would have been painted- in natural light. The space is so perfectly suited to the artwork, you wonder if there is any better way to view Monet?
Dark passageways, through which you follow the direction of the light. Turning a corner you reach the cafe and a spectacular view of the ocean and its islands.
The view seems brighter, bluer.
More information can be found at the museums website: