The Lee Ufan Museum sits in a quiet little valley in the south of Naoshima. Half-way between Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House, it’s the newest and smallest of the three museum district sites. But, unlike the others, this property is dedicated to just one great artist. The minimalist works along with the gentle sloping lawns and ocean views make it a wonderful stop on your art island itinerary.
Much Ado About Ufan
The museum is dedicated to the works of Lee Ufan, a Korean multidisciplinary artist who rose to prominence in Japan in the 1960s. At the time, he was a key figure in ‘mono-ha’ (the school of things)—Japan’s first contemporary art movement to make a splash internationally.
The movement centers around the combination and arrangement of natural and industrial materials. Stone and iron, for example, which are some of Lee’s go-tos.
Regardless of the medium, his style is decidedly minimal. From canvases featuring repetitive brushstrokes to the placement of rocks outside on the lawn, it forces you to stop and contemplate the beauty of simplicity.
Art on Art
The Lee Ufan Museum is a collaboration between the artist himself and prolific architect Tadao Ando. The mind behind many of Naoshima’s museums and other structures, Ando’s minimal style and fondness for using concrete, stone and natural light are the perfect match. Opening in 2010, this semi-underground building is the newest of the three in Naoshima’s ‘museum district’.
Approaching the museum, you’ll find yourself immediately immersed in the outdoor works. The minimal sculptures are dotted around the lawn and you’re free to roam at your leisure.
The series of concrete walls just beyond the pebbled square form the entrance. Follow the twisting, open-air path for a few turns until you arrive at the ticket counter.
On Display Inside
Inside, you’ll find more of Lee Ufan’s sculptures, as well as a number of paintings on canvas. I particularly enjoyed those featuring perfectly repeated brushstrokes—there is something so wonderfully mindful about them. These painted designs also adorn many of the unique souvenirs in the gift-shop.
As it is a small museum, you can expect to be done exploring in around thirty minutes. It’s worth noting that the entrance fee is the same as the much larger Benesse House—a fact you’ll see many online reviews balking at.
But even though the Lee Ufan Museum is small, it is definitely worth visiting. After all, it’s not every day you can see the works of such a pioneer of contemporary art in such a serene setting.
The most popular way to access Lee Ufan Museum is via bus. From the Miyanoura port, catch the town bus to the final stop, Tsutsuji-so (¥100, 12 minutes). From here, you can walk there in around 15 minutes or catch the free shuttle bus. The shuttle bus timetable is here—but please note that it doesn’t operate on days when the museums are closed.
It is also possible to walk from Miyanoura Port in around 30-40 minutes, or bike in less time. Cyclists, note that the bicycle parking for Lee Ufan is located a ten minute walk away at the ‘north gate bicycle parking lot’.
Post by Japan Journeys.
See more of Naoshima’s attractions here.