Naoshima’s famous art installation badly damaged after unexpected journey out to sea.

On Sunday night, Typhoon Lupit made landfall on Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, moving in a northeasterly direction over the Seto Inland Sea, bringing strong winds and heavy downpours to the region that lasted through to Monday evening.

One of the small islands in the Seto Inland Sea, Naoshima, suffered particularly extreme weather conditions as the typhoon passed through.

Naoshima is located in Kagawa Prefecture.

Also known as “Art Island” due to its many galleries and art installations, Naoshima is perhaps most famous for being home to the “Yellow Pumpkin” created in 1994 by world-renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

▼ The installation, managed by Benesse Art Site Naoshima, usually sits on a pier overlooking the Seto Inland Sea.

As the island was battered by heavy rain and strong winds due to the passing typhoon, locals began to fear for the safety of the Yellow Pumpkin, which was being incessantly pounded by waves.

At around 10:30 a.m. this morning, the waves ended up being too strong for the installation, dislodging the pumpkin off its cement platform, leaving the pier eerily empty.

Thankfully, the pumpkin wasn’t swept out to sea and lost forever, but it was tossed around by waves on the nearby shoreline.

▼ Another angle of the pumpkin battling the elements.

Thankfully, Benesse staff were able to retrieve the two-metre tall by 2.5-metre wide (6.5 by 8 foot) pumpkin, although they say it was badly damaged after hitting the pier multiple times during its seaborne journey. This led a number of locals to question why the pumpkin hadn’t been taken away by staff earlier, as is usually the case in the event of an approaching typhoon.

▼ This image shows the artwork being temporarily removed from the water’s edge before a previous typhoon.

▼ This video shows another time the pumpkin was taken away to safety ahead of an approaching typhoon.

By the time the pumpkin appeared to be in danger this morning, it would’ve been too late for staff to save it as the waves would’ve posed a danger to workers had they gone out on the pier during the treacherous conditions.

While Benesse says staff were “watching over” the artwork when waves and wind picked up during high tide this morning, the company is yet to comment on the reason why the artwork wasn’t removed from the site beforehand. They did release a statement on Twitter this afternoon, however, which read:

“Benesse House’s outdoor work ‘Pumpkin’ has been removed due to damage by Typhoon No. 9 [Typoon Lupit]. We will notify you once re-exhibition of the work has been decided. We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.”

As the ninth typhoon to approach Japan this year, people are bracing themselves for more tropical storms, which commonly occur between May to October and peak in August and September each year. And with Naoshima also home to another open-air seaside pumpkin by Kusama, a black-dotted red one located behind a seawall, staff at Benesse will likely be keeping a watchful eye over their famous gourds for the rest of the summer.

It’s these famous pumpkins that bring thousands of tourists to the shores of Naoshima every year, including Keanu Reeves and his girlfriend Alexandra Grant, who took the above photo of Kusama’s outdoor installation during their visit to the area in 2019.

Source: Asahi Shimbun
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