Three Rooms at Chichu

We stand on ceremony here. Young women robed in white by Taishi Nobukuni direct the rituals—this way please, take a seat, form a queue. Cameras reluctantly stowed, we follow directions, wait our turn, and wish we’d worn nicer socks.


Below the long bench, shoes are neatly aligned and we wait to be ushered through. The ante-room takes a slightly divergent path, allowing one to be surprised by the serenity that awaits. In the whiter-than-white Chichu Art Museum, the Monet Room is especially pristine. As we glide towards the glowing space, five paintings and a few patrons reveal themselves.

The white robed women are discretely vigilant. Thick glass protects and liberates the work but there might be a sketch book, a smart phone, a guest to be quietly reminded.

Water-Lily Pond (c.1915-26), invites us closer. I’m two inches away. I turn sideways. I look straight ahead. Step back, step forward. For a few moments, it feels as if it is mine alone. First a haze, now a pool of light. Pink, purple, blue, and green. Sunlight, shadows, daubs and squiggles emerging as blooms.

These grand paintings command attention. People are present but not seen. Everyone lingers, chooses a favourite, absorbs the detail, appreciates the skill built up over a lifetime. More than a hundred years after Monet laboured over these paintings, it’s a privilege to be here bathed in their glorious serenity .

James Turrell

We make our way towards the work by James Turrell. First, a projection piece, Afrum Pale Blue, 1968, which (according to the artist’s website) “is created by projecting a single, controlled beam of light from the opposing corner of the room”. It’s intriguing but we sense there is more.

Open Field, 2000 is one of the ganzfeld works, ganzfeld being “a German word to describe the phenomenon of the total loss of depth perception as in the experience of a white-out”. Again there is a ceremonial entrance where we are invited to wait our turn.

The first in the queue places his RMs squarely on the floor. These bushman’s boots are international now but the confidence and curiosity surrounding this young man identify him as one of us.  In our socks once again, eight of us are allowed to move forward.

A small room, a set of steps, a pale blue light ahead. As we ascend, the attendant at our rear is dwarfed by a cream wall.

Gradually, gently, we are immersed as the light meanders from blue to blue with hints of amethyst, pale pink, and fuchsia, waves of violet, lavender, and indigo. We can sit but choose to stand. Enclosed in our open space, we are awed by the silence and simplicity. Nothing intrudes or interrupts. We are cleansed by the light, energised.

We turn to leave and the cream wall is luminous, pulsating with colour and light.

Open Sky, 2004 is the setting for the sunset viewing late in the day. It is a peaceful space but we are invigorated now and only spend a few moments before moving on.

Walter de Maria

The next room is a temple. The work is enshrined by light that seeps through the transluscent skylight and falls from the edges of a suspended ceiling. Soft and sharp, muted and bright.

Later in the day we come across an earlier work by de Maria, housed in its own enclosure overlooking the sea.

Walter De Maria, Naoshima, Japan

Seen/Unseen Known/Unknown (2000)  detail Walter De Maria

Time/Timeless/No Time (2004) is housed in the Chichu Museum.

Photo of the garden at Chichu Museum

Benesse Art Site (English version)

Claude Monet on Google Art Project | Musee Orangerie

An article about Todao Ando’s vision for Chichu Art Museum

James Turrell’s website | Article about Open Sky