Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crowded house

The development of the Len Lye Centre signals the Govett-Brewster's intention to increase its focus on being an art tourist destination. You can see why New Plymouth thinks it's worth a shot. The city has already had a major success with music and WOMAD. People turn up each year from all over the country (as well as enough from overseas to make up a percentage) to hear the music. Event tourism can be big business so for ideas on the art side someone from the G-B need to get to Naoshima on the Inland Sea of Japan and the islands that surround it.

When we first visited Naoshima in 2006 it essentially boasted two museums housing a rich man's collection and a luxury destination hotel for the international art world. Seven years later everything's changed. Ok, the hotel and museums remain, and we spotted a posse of international art lovers with outstandingly good shoes so we figure Naoshima still figures on the itineraries of the rich, but the overwhelming majority of visitors today (and there are a lot of them) are Japanese people of all ages.

This changes has come about very fast thanks to the launch of the first Setouchi Triennale in 2010 and now its latest iteration in 2013. Featuring Japanese and international artists this event has gone for local history, local connections and local communities. Lacking easy access the Setouchi Triennale has made a virtue of its isolation. Based on twelve small islands the challenge and fun of getting from place to place has become a huge part of a unique experience. The Triennale locates temporary and permanent art works both in buildings and industrial sites that have been abandoned as well as adding a small number of superb new buildings.

The result has been the reinvention of the islands as an arts destination. And that's where the Triennale comes in. It injects jolts of concentrated energy into a bourgeoning cultural scene full of small businesses (cafes, accommodation, bars, gifts shops) often owned and operated by young people, the same young people who had no option but to leave the islands just a few years before.  

Images: top to bottom left to right, the Seirensho Art Museum on Inujima Island reuses the remains of an old copper refinery, waiting for a bus on Teshima Island, Kimio Mishima’s giant trash can with ceramic trash Another rebirth on Naoshima Island, Sugimoto installation at the Benesse House Museum on Naoshima, giant dog statue and bottom, a SANNA pavilion on Inujima.