The colorful works of celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama have taken over the New York Botanical Garden. Scattered throughout the Garden’s 250-acre landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building visitors will find whimsical immersive installations created by the artist throughout her prolific career. These pieces, some of which have never been publicly exhibited, are part of KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, a highly anticipated exhibition opening this weekend, on April 10th!
Originally scheduled to open in 2020, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is the first-ever comprehensive exploration of the Yayoi Kusama’s “lifelong fascination with the natural world.” This fascination stems from her days spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery in Matsumoto, Japan as a child. “Nature is not only a central source of inspiration but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama’s artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present,” says KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature guest curator Mika Yoshitake, Ph.D.
The pieces featured in the exhibition, which include monumental sculptures, paintings, performance art, early sketches, and collages, are culled from Kusama’s decades-long career. In addition to work that has never been publically exhibited, many items are making their debut in the United States. One striking highlight of the exhibition is Dancing Pumpkin (2020), a 16-foot high bronze sculpture painted yellow with Kusama’s signature polka dots in black. Placed outside the Haupt Conservatory, the piece is surrounded by river birches, flowering plants, grasses, and ferns. In the Native Plant Garden, 1,400 stainless steel spheres, each nearly 12 inches in diameter, float in the water. Titled Narcissus Garden (1966/2021), this installation reflects the surrounding enviornment but with a mesmerizing effect. As the wind blows and the currents move, the arrangement of the balls is reconfigured, providing a new experience at every moment.
Inside the Library Building, visitors can peek into Kusama’s 1945 sketchbook which contains some 50 botanical drawings she made at just 16 years old. The indoor galleries also feature Kusama’s works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblage boxes, sculptures, and paintings on canvas. Kusama’s performance art piece, Walking Piece (ca. 1966/2021), in which she walks the streets of New York City wearing a bright-pink floral kimono and carrying an umbrella decorated with artificial flowers, is projected in the Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery.
Visitors to the exhibit can take a self-guided Patterns in Nature Tour by using the Bloomberg Connects mobile app. The tour will examine the visible—and microscopic—patterns found in nature, patterns that inspire and are illustrated in Kusama’s work. If you are looking to explore even more work by Kusama, David Zwirner Books is set to re-release Every Day I Pray for Love. This book of reflective poetry by Kusama also features more than 300 pages of new paintings, sculptures, and Infinity Mirrored Rooms as well as photographs of Kusama over the past few decades.
You can purchase tickets to see KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature on the New York Botanical Garden website, here! The exhibition will be on view through Sunday, October 31st, 2021.