The relatively small city of Kanazawa is full of surprises.  The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a revelation, for example.  There are works by world famous artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Leandro Erlich, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor, Jan Fabre and Patrick Blanc. Not only is the art shown on par with New York, London or Paris, but the actual space is spectacular.  The glass building is completely round, with interior square and rectangular modules that serve as exhibition galleries or public spaces. The Museum was designed by the Japanese architecture firm Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, winners of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2010.

The visitor experiences the art in spacious galleries, spaces that allow the art to breathe and allow interaction.  This is especially true of the “Swimming Pool” by the Argentine artist Leandro Erlich, where a swimming pool is “hollowed-out” and covered by a layer of water contained between sheets of glass. The visitor can walk in below and cavort freely, much to the delight of the viewers above, outside the pool looking in.

Another great sensory experience is the room designed by James Turrell with a large rectangular space cut out of the ceiling.  The open sky is the framed artwork, with its moving clouds and changing light. As you sit on the bench along the wall looking up, your perception and awareness of the sky subtly changes. A perfect place for quiet meditation.

Or the walk-in sculpture by Olafur Eliasson, the Icelandic master of light: Oversized, curved and brightly colored panels of glass change the viewer’s experience of the outside world, depending on where he stands.

I could go on and on … whoever chose or commissioned these works is to be highly commended. Contemporary art made accessible and palatable to all visitors!

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