Narcissus Garden in the Benesse House Museum Valley Gallery 

From the invitation of Tadao Ando, step into the new art space ‘Valley Gallery’ of the Benesse House in Naoshima, Setouchi, which is Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden.

Entering and leaving the architecture of Tadao Ando, is a constant experience on Naoshima in Setouchi. However, it is filled with an inexplicable allure, remaining fascinating even when repeatedly experienced, truly magical.

photo by SOL.

After years apart, my revisit to Naoshima was specifically because of the ‘Valley Gallery’ . Valley Gallery and ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto Gallery Time Corridors’, which are two new art spaces opened in March 2022 during the Setouchi Triennale at the Benesse Art Site Naoshima.

As we walked on the valley path and climbed the gentle slope, it was only when we looked back that we realized we were already inside the gallery. If the ‘Chichu Art Museum’ in Naoshima is an architecture coexisting with nature, then the ‘Valley Gallery’ is nature itself.

Architect Tadao Ando’s ninth building in Naoshima, the Valley Gallery, with a valley landscape as its main subject and installations that adapt to the seasonal changes, breaks away from the traditional museum impression. It merges with nature and becomes an immersive art installation.

The ‘Valley Gallery’ is located in the valley area between ‘Benesse House Beach’, ‘Benesse House Oval’, and ‘Benesse House Museum’, near the ‘Lee Ufan Museum’. Tadao Ando chose one of the most remote and challenging locations in Naoshima to construct this uniquely styled museum.

Photo by SOL.

Yayoi Kusama Narcissus Garden

They stand motionless, as if waiting. When we approach these mirror-like metal spheres, their surfaces reflect our distorted, magnified images. However, the moment our gaze meets these reflections, the spheres lose their three-dimensionality. In our view, they become shimmering ‘silver dots’.

In the winding path of the Valley Gallery, at every turn and beyond each steep slope, we anticipate the appearance of these dots. Unwittingly, we enter a lake surrounded by hills and forests, where metal spheres scattered on the water’s surface move with the wind, touching each other, creating a deep, rhythmic sound. Watching and listening to countless reflections of ‘myself’ in the spheres brings an inner peace.

In 1966, Yayoi Kusama, not invited to the Venice Biennale, chose a grassy area in front of the Italian Pavilion and displayed 1,500 silver spheres. That day, she incessantly threw them into the air. Her ‘Narcissus Garden’ arrived at Benesse House in Kagawa’s Naoshima in 2006. After 57 years, it remains captivating.

On the lake’s shore sit a group of Buddha gazing at the sky, guarding Naoshima with the metal spheres since 2006. The warm sunlight brings a peaceful aura to the surroundings.

Contemporary artist Ozawa Tsuyoshi, known for his paintings, photography, videos, and installations, humorously and profoundly comments on history and society. He is one of the first Japanese artists concerned with ‘climate warming’ and ‘sustainable environments’.

The eighty-eight Buddha statues made from recycled industrial waste of Teshima reflect Seto Inland Sea’s light and shadows with different colors, cracks, and patterns. They symbolize the transformation from Japan’s severe ‘Teshima waste incident’ to a sustainable island envisioned by Soichiro Fukutake, harmonizing nature, architecture, and art.

The ‘Slag Buddha 88’ at the Valley Gallery represents a reflection and meditation on ‘environmental sustainability’

Home of the Sphere 

In the depths of the ‘Valley Gallery,’ there is a place where mirror-like metal spheres gather, resting and sleeping in quiet tranquility as if it is their home.

Tadao Ando has extended the exhibition route, allowing visitors more time to think. In the end, he gathers all these thoughts into an architectural space. The inclined skylight introduces natural light, and the play of light and shadow on the raw concrete walls eliminates superfluous elements. In this triangular geometric space, only the seasons and time remain.

The Place We Lived 

As we were returning, echoes of the ‘polka dot princess’ resonated through the valley. After her most significant exhibition during her career of rejections, Yayoi Kusama declared the birth of the ‘Narcissus Garden’. From that moment, a dream-like landscape appeared in people’s vision, which continues to grow vigorously to this day. It reminds us, regardless of how much the world deviates, to never forget love, peace, and ourselves.

Valley Gallery

Hours:

9:30 ~ 16:00(Last admittance: 15:30)

Admission:Including in the ticket of Benesse House museum (JPY 1300)


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