TOTTORI--A 570-million-yen ($7 million) museum designed specifically to protect fragile sculptures during their fleeting existence has opened here.
The Sand Museum, built near sand dunes that are popular with tourists, is a two-story, steel-reinforced concrete structure with a total floor space of about 3,000 square meters. The Tottori municipal government began construction in March 2011 and the museum was completed in about a year. It opened on April 14.
The sand sculptures displayed on the first floor are the main attraction at the museum. Visitors can also look at the works from above on the second floor.
The theme of the sculptures now on display is “Britain,” in line with the Summer Olympics that will be held in London this year.
Fifteen sculptors from 10 nations created 16 works that show the prosperity and history of the British empire as well as modern British landscape. Among the sculptures on display are Westminster Palace, which houses the British Parliament, and scenes from Shakespeare's plays.
About 2,500 tons of sand from the nearby dunes were used for the sculptures.
Since 2006, temporary tents have been set up near the dunes to display sand sculptures under such themes as “Italy” and “Austria.” The last exhibition was a recreation of various aspects of Africa, and a record number 414,000 visitors viewed the sculptures.
However, because the sand sculptures are so fragile, the exhibition had to be temporarily closed to protect them from wind and rain.
With a permanent museum now in place, the sculptures will no longer be affected by weather, and sculptors can concentrate on greater detail in their works. The amount of display space has also been doubled from the past.
"Visitors will also be able to enjoy the works in a comfortable environment as they won't have to worry about the weather," said Katsuhiko Chaen, 51, a sand sculptor from Minami-Satsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture, who served as producer for the museum. "The sand sculptors have also created works of high quality, reflecting the greater concentration they have placed in their works."
The sand sculptures are destroyed once an exhibition is over, and the sand can be used to create new works for the next exhibition.
"The works will not last forever, but will once again become sand," Chaen said. "Another attraction is the fleeting nature of the works since they can only be enjoyed in the here and now."
The current exhibition will continue until Jan. 6, 2013. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. The sculptures are lighted up after dark. Entrance fees are 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for senior high school students and younger. Further information is available in English at the museum's website (http://www.sand-museum.jp/en/).
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