Over 100 permanent artworks by artists from Japan and across the world are exhibited around the rural Echigo Tsumari region, producing an intriguing combination of modern art with a traditional countryside backdrop. During the art triennale, dozens of new artworks are added, many of which are on display only during the festival, while some join the collection of permanent works.
The art is related to the region's people, landscapes and social issues, and a lot of pieces incorporate vacant houses or abandoned schools, which are numerous due to the depopulation trend. The buildings are used as exhibition spaces or are transformed into artworks themselves.
Rather than concentrated in a single location, the art exhibits are scattered around the entire Echigo-Tsumari area. Many of them are in the open air, in rice fields, beside rivers or in the villages. While some of the exhibits are near the town centers and relatively easily accessible from train stations, others stand in remote places that are quite difficult to access.
The following is an incomplete list of some of the outstanding art exhibits which are on permanent display. Note that outside of the festivals, some of them are only open over the weekends and public holidays, and most are closed or inaccessible during the winter season. It is recommended to check the official website before visiting.
Exhibit number: T025
Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art, Kinare
By Hiroshi Hara + ATELIER, Japan Built in 2003
Reached in a 10-15 minute walk from Tokamachi Station, the Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art Kinare is an art museum that also serves as the main stage and information center of the festival during the art triennale. The museum displays artwork from over a dozen artists, and also houses a cafe and a public hot spring bath.
Exhibit number: T173
Hachi & Seizo Tashima Museum of Picture Book Art
By Tashima Seizo, Japan Built in 2009
An abandoned elementary school building full of artwork that is meant to represent a picture book story of the last three students to attend the school.
Exhibit number: K005
House of Light
By James Turrell, USA Built in 2000
This house combines traditional Japanese interior design with the artistic use of light. It is possible to stay overnight in the House of Light.
Exhibit number: K002-005, 007, 009-013, 022-023
Nakago Green Park
By various artists Built from 2000-2012
Almost 20 artworks are stationed around this city park and golf course, including the House of Light. The nearby campgrounds are home to another half dozen artworks.
Exhibit number: D053
Noh Butai Snow-Land Agrarian Culture Center
By MVRDV, The Netherlands Built in 2003
Five minutes from Matsudai Station on foot, the Noh Butai is another of the festival's stages and information centers. The Noh Butai houses a small museum, observatory, restaurant, and shop. Several dozen artworks are located around the base of the center and along the nearby hillside.
Exhibit number: D001
The Rice Field
By Iliya & Emilia Kabakov, Russia Built in 2003
Sculptures in terraced rice fields combined with poems, when viewed from the Noh Butai.
Exhibit number: D006
By Oscar Satio Oiwa, Brazil Built in 2000
Red figures, depicting a farmer's family, working in a terraced rice field.
Exhibit number: D132
Portrait of the Village
By Richard Deacon, United Kingdom Built in 2006
A metal sculpture, also known as Mountain, which lies along a remote mountain road with views of the mountains in the distance.
Exhibit number: D143
By Kurakake Junichi + University College of Art Sculpture Course, Japan Built in 2006
Carvings cover the walls, pillars and floors of this abandoned house, which also doubles as an accommodation.
Exhibit number: Y052
The Last Class
By Christian Boltanski + Jean Kalman, France Built in 2006
An abandoned school turned into a haunted house like art object.
Exhibit number: Y013
By Marina Abranovic, Former Yugoslavia Built in 2000
Another of the art exhibits that double functions as an accommodation. Guests are asked to record their dreams into a book in the following morning.
Exhibit number: Y082/083
By Andrew Burns, Australia Built in 2003
Built to replace the former Australia House, which was destroyed in an aftershock of the March 2011 earthquake, the new Australia House was constructed as a symbol of Japanese-Australian cultural exchange. The sharp angled, triangular building was the result of a design competition and includes traditional elements of both Japanese and Australian architecture.
Exhibit number: Y019
Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science
By Takahara Tezuka + Yui, Japan Built in 2003
The museum was built as a natural science education center, and its shape and materials were chosen to withstand the substantial snow cover each year. Attached to the museum is an observation tower, and there are also many walking trails in the surrounding area.
Exhibit number: N028
For Lots of Lost Windows
By Utsumi Akiko, Japan Built in 2006
A window to rediscover the ordinary view of the landscape.
Exhibit number: N019
By Architect Office Casagrande & Rintala, Finland Built in 2003
Former illegal dumping ground turned into a riverside park.
JR Iiyama Line Art Project
By various artists Built in 2012
Various artworks have been built next to train stations along the JR Iiyama Line.
Exhibit number: N079
Tunnel of Light
By Ma Yansong / MAD architects, China Built in 2018
Located in the Kiyotsukyo Gorge, the Tunnel of Light is a pedestrian tunnel that was redesigned to resemble a submarine and features a dramatic view of the gorge and reflective pool at the end of the tunnel. Near the entrance to the tunnel is also a building designed as a periscope with a footbath and cafe.
Exhibit number: M024
By Lee Jaehyo, Korea Built in 2009
Three artistically shaped wooden globes, blending in perfectly with the forested backdrop.
Exhibit number: M001
DMOCA (Dragon Museum of Contemporary Art)
By Cai Guo Qiang, China /USA Built in 2000
A dragon-shaped furnace built with earth, stones and bricks. The whiskers are made of tubes with special openings which, when blown through, make sounds with various pitches.