Arts + Design

Stunning photos from an art funhouse the size of three islands

Nov 6, 2014 /

On three tiny islands in central Japan, stunning natural beauty lives side by side with some of the world’s best contemporary art and architecture. In the book Insular Insight, photographer Iwan Baan takes us deep into a place where anyone can play with high art. To find out more, read a lyrical meditation on the islands.

Rain, underground

A rainy day at the Lee Ufan Museum, a building that’s almost completely underground. The museum is an ode to Lee Ufan, a Japanese-Korean minimalist painter and sculptor. Pictured is his “relatum—a signal” (2005).

Sculptures that invite you to stare at the sky

At the Benesse House Museum, Kan Yasuda’s “The Secret of the Sky” (1996) is a smooth marble outdoor installation welcoming you to lie down and stare at the timeless sky above.

Sunlight, Monet’s “Water Lily,” and slippered feet

A gallery in the Chichu Art Museum. Filled with natural light, the space contains five of Monet’s “Water Lily” paintings and thousands of little marble pieces that shift slightly beneath your slippered feet.

A better hallway

A corridor at the Chichu museum plays with light and concrete. The building was designed by Tadao Ando.

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To get to the top…

A creaky funicular takes you to the Oval Building, at the top of the island.

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Inside an ancient house, a glowing pool that counts to nine

Inside a nearly 200-year-old house, green, red and yellow LED counters float on a pool of water, counting from 1 to 9 or 9 to 1 at different speeds. Tatsuo Miyajima’s “Sea of Time ’98″ is installated inside the Kadoya house, restored with the help of 125 residents from around Naoshima.

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A pumpkin playground

At the Miyanoura port on Naoshima, Yayoi Kusama’s “Red Pumpkin” is a playground for passersby.

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Wind and light flow underground

On Inujima island, an underground “system of wind and light” built by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi and artist Yukinori Yanagi winds through an abandoned copper refinery.

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Wind and light flow underground

A surreal space containing one piece of art, the museum on neighboring Teshima has two openings in its ceiling. Throughout the day they cast sunlight on the water droplets dancing across the floor of the museum.

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A seed and a spaceship

The Teshima Art Museum from the outside is a seed and a spaceship.

Photos by Iwan Baan from Insular Insight: Where Art and Architecture Conspire with Nature, edited by Lars Müller and Akiko Miki. To learn more about Naoshima and Teshima, read a travel essay about visiting the islands. And for more on moving to stand still, read Pico Iyer’s new TED Book, The Art of Stillness.