ARTS

Inside Yayoi Kusama's Museum

One of the world's most intriguing artists opens her Tokyo museum in October.
5 September, 2017
When an interviewer recently asked Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama what she considered the highlight among her achievements, the 88-year-old said that she hadn't completed it yet but it was coming.
She didn't give her secret away then, and she didn't give it away three years ago when the five-story museum she planned for her works was completed. Now the museum is set to open in October, and the doors welcome the many admirers of Kusama's vibrant, avant-garde and occasionally jarring work.

Polka dots, pumpkins – there are certain signature works that set Kusama apart. Some of them are said to be inspired by her hallucinations and the artistic brilliance that came with a mind that processes the world differently than others. It's been both a blessing and curse, but allowed the artist to make a name for herself in the visual arts, fashion, film, poems and literature, and even commissioned public art. All of that's been achieved while living in a mental institution where she has received treatment since the 1970s.
Image: Artribune
What intrigues those who appreciate Kusama's work is in part her breadth, especially when it comes to the materials she chooses. Among them are the Infinity Mirror creations that she has worked on for decades, whether in New York City during her highly political 1960s or later upon her return to a Japan she felt had become less stifling for women. The mirrors create small worlds of her art in their dazzling folds, and in many cases replicate her two-dimensional paintings or pieces in an immersive experience.

For example, the 2009 work "Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity" incorporates aluminium, black glass, plastics, acrylics, wood and other materials, along with the mirrors themselves, in order to create an entire galaxy of lanterns in the void. Visitors to the Smithsonian Institute and other global museums have long been able to experience the Infinity Mirrors that will now find a permanent home in Tokyo.
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The pumpkins have been uniquely Kusama since World War II, when they were an important food source for her family. She developed a fascination for them that later expressed itself as a common motif in her work, and they come in a dazzling array of colors and materials. Among them is "Reach Up to the Universe, Dotted Pumpkin," which features oversized aluminium pumpkin sculptures with cutout polka dots, all set within an orange mirrored installation.

Other examples of the intersection between her love for the pumpkins and the mirrors include "All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins," a 2016 work that places the vibrant polka-dot pumpkins inside an Infinity Mirror room.

The swirling geometries, the psychedelic colors – all will be on display at the Tokyo museum, but the site will feature other works as well. The greatest challenge is likely to be the embarrassment of artistic riches that Kusama provides. There is the line of Louis Vitton fashion pieces, the photography of her 1960s-era performance art, the exhibits to showcase her art film career. There are poems, essays and novels to celebrate in a reading room that will use some of the space in the new museum's top floor.
Image: PinsDaddy
Above all, there is the inaugural exhibition. 'Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art' will feature new paintings, new black-and-white drawings, and of course a new pumpkin as the octogenarian artist continues her life's passion. The exhibit and the museum open on October 1.
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