The Chichu Art Museum of Naoshima is extremely beautiful. The words “Chichu” means “in the earth” and this is a simple “must-see” when you come to Naoshima. The museum itself was designed by the famous architect, Tadao Ando (who has his own museum on the island) and he created the building to not interfere with the natural surroundings of the island. Thus “in the earth”. Elegant and simple.
At the very heart of the Chichu Art Museum is the incredible “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet. I have to brag a little here that I had unbelievable timing and got to stand in the room surrounded by the works completely alone for about 15 minutes. That was enough to make my week. The size of the paintings are huge, and you feel entirely drawn into the work.
Two other significant artists, Walter De Maria and James Turrell, are also brought to the Chichu Art Museum with their pieces. My guidebook suggests that Monet, De Maria, and Turrell are all artists who “confront” nature, each in their own way, and as such are complementary to one another. The architecture of the museum itself joins them in a unique and meaningful way.
This was new to me, but I am convinced. It was a great experience to see the work, but also to move between them.
There is a lot to explore and discover at the Chichu Art Museum. As you walk up the path to the museum itself, you come through a pond full of water lilies. Last time I came in winter, but it was still beautiful. The gardener, a retired engineer who speaks great English and who lived in Dubai, was tending to the trees and kindly welcoming visitors. In spring you can water lilies in many varieties: escarboucle, darwin, attrition, snowball, arc-en-ciel, charlene strawn, sunrise, and comanche. The garden is also full of iris, weeping willow, and agapanthus. You are being prepared for your own Monet experience.
Once within the museum, the work of Tadao Ando will quietly soothe your senses. The angles of light coming through the facility at different times of day, brings warmth and nuance to the exhibitions, and the spaces between.
James Turrell’s work with light is fascinating, and you will have a very special experience as you climb the steps to “take a better look”.
Walter De Maria’s space is also quite fascinating. I’m a novice to art, but I felt something unique and calming about his work. Simply standing in different parts of the room was enough to leave a lasting impression.
Make the Chichu Art Museum a destination point as you come to Naoshima. It is classy, smart, beautiful, unassuming, and very friendly to visitors of all sorts, from all places. I felt completely at home and relaxed in the museum and had a wonderful experience there.