“It is meaningless to build an art museum if you are going to imitate others,” says Ryu Niimi, director of the new Oita Prefectural Art Museum. “If you are not determined to build something unique, and like nothing else, to exist only in Oita, then it is meaningless.” With that bold mission statement, the OPAM (as it is abbreviated), the ‘Museum of Five Senses,’ (as it is being proclaimed) opened to visitors in April of 2015.
Located on the center of Oita City in Southern Japan, OPAM boasts a collection of about 5000 works by Japanese painters, sculptors and crafters. Oita, in particular, is responsible for cultivating and producing a wealth of artists and styles like the gentle and melancholic brush strokes of Tanomura Chikuden, the modernist vegetation and water ripples of Heihachiro Fukuda, and the abstract, geometrical shapes of Teppei Ujiyama, just to name a few.
Oita’s vast cultural heritage, along with its unique positioning nearby other Asian countries, is now being steered by curator and university professor Ryu Niimi. The 56-year old scholar of modern and contemporary art and design and museology has footprints in the Sezon Museum of Art, Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, as well as Keio University and Musashino Art University.
The museum’s visual identity was created by CDL, a communication and design firm led by Keiko Hirano and Aoshi Kudo. The duo created the unique, elongated lettering to visually represent the museum’s potential, scalability and diversity.
The new structure was designed by Shigeru Ban, the Japanese architect and the 2014 recipient of a Pritzker prize, the architecture world’s equivalent of a Nobel. The three-floor cubic structure is wrapped with a wooden latticed façade, which diffuses light into the lobby space and reminding visitors of the area’s local craft.
On the ground level is a cafe space that opens up into the atrium. The vast space can be utilized for site-specific installations.