You have probably seen images of the swimming pool that people can walk in without getting wet. It’s the famous “fake” swimming pool exhibit created by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich. Back in the 2010s, pictures and videos of the installation went viral and appeared on various blogs and websites. Today, more than ten years later, it still draws big crowds and is the perfect location for your next Instagram post.
Swimming Pool is a permanent exhibition at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan. The installation creates an optical illusion of people submerged underwater. In fact, the water is on top of a pane of glass, which forms the ceiling of the light blue-colored room below that you can enter, and is only 10cm (4 inches) deep. The patterns created by the sun reflecting on the water in the pool change according to the light conditions.
It’s free to see the pool from above, but if you want to go inside, you need to pay a small fee.
Insider tip: Get ready to wait in line for a time. The Swimming Pool is a very popular exhibit so queues can get long.
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan
Although The Swimming Pool is the jewel in the crown of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the museum certainly has more to offer.
First of all, the museum’s architecture itself is exceptional. Created by the famous architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA, it has won several design awards, including the Golden Lion Award of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2004, the Good Design Award Gold in 2005 and the Pritzker Prize in 2010.
The round, glass building looks like a massive spaceship in the middle of the irregularly shaped park, which is also part of the museum. There’s no main entrance and no concept of “back” and “front” either. There are multiple entrances and the lack of boundaries between the inner and outer space (as you can appreciate outdoor greenery through the glass walls) encourages visitors to approach the art from all directions.
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the most popular art museums in Japan, attracting over a million visitors per year. It offers numerous installations that encourage physical interaction. The most well-known are the “Color Activity House” by Olafur Eliasson, the “Blue Planet Sky” by James Turrell and the “Green Bridge” by Patrick Blanc.
Entrance to the museum is free, but you need a ticket to visit the temporary exhibitions and prices vary depending on the exhibitions. Visit the museum’s website to find out more.
Insider tip: You can only take photos of the outdoor installations and the Swimming Pool and the use of any other photography equipment (like a tripod or selfie stick) is not allowed. Check a map with photography allowed areas before visiting.
How to get there?
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is very close to one of the most famous Japanese gardens, Kenroku-en (3 minutes walk) and Kanazawa Castle Park (12 minutes walk). You can also take a bus from Kanazawa station. It’s about a 20-minute ride.
- Name: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
- Web Sites: https://www.kanazawa21.jp/en/
- Address: 1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa, Japan 920-8509
- Opening hours: Exhibition Zone 10:00 -18:00 (Open until 20:00 on Friday and Saturday), Public Zone 9:00 – 22:00
- Closed: Monday and New Year’s holiday (When Monday is a national holiday, it is closed on the following weekday. The Public Zone is open on Monday.)