Check Out Kengo Kuma’s Stunning New Gallery at Comico Art Museum Yufuin in Oita

ByJames I. Robertson

Jun 29, 2022

Located in a spa town near the coastal city of Oita in Kyushu, is the beautiful but little known Comico Yufuin Art Museum. Established in October 2017, this contemporary art space is relatively new and yet it houses works by some of Japan’s most famous artists, such as Takashi Murakami, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Kohei Nawa. In fact, even the site itself is a work of art, as the museum was designed by architect Kengo Kuma.

Photo: NHN Japan Corporation‘Ether (lava)’ (2021) by Kohei Nawa on top of the new gallery building

Recently, Kuma also oversaw the expansion of the museum, with the new building opening July 1. The new gallery has a charcoal black facade to match the other buildings on the site, although its striking geometric structure sets it apart. The first floor will include three new spaces, while the second floor will host two outdoor exhibitions. Among the artists who will present their works in the opening exhibition of the new building are Yayoi Kusama, Tatsuo Miyajima, Mariko Mori and Kohei Nawa.

Comico Yufuin Art Museum
Photo: NHN Japan CorporationTatsuo Miyajima ‘Time Waterfall – panel #C’ (2020)

Many installations here, such as Miyajima’s “Waterfall of Time” and Mori’s “Eternal I” sculpture, are enhanced by the dynamic backdrop of the surrounding valley. Their strategic locations encourage viewers to take their time moving between spaces while reflecting on the artwork. While the museum is within walking distance of several popular hot spring resorts, the site also has its own guesthouse for those who want to immerse themselves in all that Yufuin has to offer.

Comico Yufuin Art Museum
Photo: NHN Japan CorporationTsuchi House

Completed last year in 2021, Comico Art House Yufuin is a luxury accommodation designed by – you guessed it – Kengo Kuma. It includes the Tsuchi house and the Take house. Inspired by the Satoyama culture, where nature and community are deeply connected, both houses feature private onsen, traditional Japanese gardens, and spacious rooms with tatami floors. The only small problem is that reservations can only be made by direct request on the website rather than an automated system – and it’s unclear how much a single night’s stay will cost during high season.

Comico Yufuin Art Museum
Photo: NHN Japan CorporationTsuchi House

Fortunately, admission to the museum itself is affordable, with general admission set at ¥1,700 (¥1,200 for university students, ¥1,000 for college and high school students, ¥700 for primary school students). Currently, there is a special discount available online, where adults can purchase tickets for ¥1,200 and all students can enter for ¥700.

Comico Yufuin Art Museum
Photo: NHN Japan CorporationYoshitomo Nara ‘Your Dog’ (2017)

Comico Art Museum Yufuin is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Wednesday. For more information, see the museum website.

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