Japanese Localities Build Growth on Arts and Culture

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts on Jim Brooks’ trip to Japan with the The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) Fellowship.

The Tate. The Getty. The Guggenheim. MoMa. These are household names and as such are among the most prestigious museums of modern art in the world. Breaking into this august company is a tremendous challenge. But for sheer inventiveness and audacity, a grade of A+ goes to the remarkable Chichu Art Museum in Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture overlooking the Seto Inland Sea – Japan’s first national park.

The CLAIR delegation in Tokyo
The CLAIR delegation in Tokyo

The region already boasts a small “garden museum” on the grounds of the studio use by Isama Noguchi, a pioneering sculptor and creator of earthworks, gardens and plazas. His major works are in Paris, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fort Worth and Venice. Another gem, the Genichiro Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in Marugame City places an extensive collection of his work in a facility designed by famed architect Yochiro Taniguchi, known for his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMa). Also of interest is Taniguchi’s design of the Higashiyama Kaii Setouchi Art Museum at the foot of the Seto Ohashi Bridge.

The Chichu is genuinely a world class facility. The building itself is a work of art and a product of architect Tadao Ando, who also designed the sister gallery the Lee Ufan. The galleries of the Chichu are housed within a hill, leaving the land’s natural beauty unscathed. Artworks are bathed in natural light from skylights yielding brightness or shadow as each minute of the day passes. On display are works by Walter De Maria (Time/Timeless/No Time), James Turrell (including Open Field), and five water lily works by Claude Monet, the acquisition of which pre-dated the creation of the museum.

For the state and local government leaders of Kagawa Prefecture, Takamatsu and Marugame cities and other localities, economic prosperity is tied to a mix of economic assets including high quality modern art, scenic and historic places, and a spiritual and emotional connection to the shrines and temples set among the natural landscape of the island of Shikoku.

During 2013, the prefecture will host an international arts festival, the Setouchi Triennale providing a 108-day festival across three seasons using multiple venues dotting the Inland Sea islands and the museums on the main island of Shikoku. More than 170 artists from 16 countries will display works during the festival period.

Art at the Lee Ufan Museum
Art at the Lee Ufan Museum

Some important strategic partners already are involved beyond the government entities. The Fukutake Foundation has, for example, helped to underwrite both the Chichu and the Lee Ufan museums on Naoshima island and launched the original arts festival in 2010.

Other scenic, historic or spiritual attractions include Ritsurin Gardens, the Zenigata sculpture at Kotohiki Park and the Zentsuji Temple. In fact, 88 temples and shrines dot Shikoku. A formal pilgrimage road, known as the Shikoku Henro, is in various stages of development.

The state and local leaders who have presented these strategies have a solid vision and are not afraid to experiment with some non-traditional approaches. The commitment, imagination and world class assets will likely reap significant economic rewards.