In Yayoi Kusama’s 89th year of life, we’re experiencing what Akira Tatehata, director of Tokyo’s newly opened Yayoi Kusama Museum, calls a “Second Golden Age” of the internationally acclaimed artist. The first ended in ashes, out from which the second re-emerged more recently. In 1977, Kusama broke down after a professionally successful tenure in New York’s avant-garde art scene. She interred herself at the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she’s lived ever since.
Swallow antidepressants and it will be gone
ear down the gate of hallucinations
Amidst the agony of flowers, the present never ends
At the stairs to heaven, my heart expires in their tenderness
Calling from the sky, doubtless,
Transparent in its shades of blue
Embraced with the shadow of illusion
Sounds of tears
Shed upon eating the color of cotton rose
I become a stone
Not in time eternal
But in the present that transpires
— Yayoi Kusama, “Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict”(1974)
Kusama’s incredible popularity masks a legacy of mental anguish. She creates art because it keeps her healthy. Art helps her explore the enigmatic inner machinations of her mind; she shares that art to promote world peace. In the twilight of her life, Kusama’s quixotic star glows with the grandeur of a dying star building to supernova. Her art and influence spreads through to the corners of the earth.
Until someone plops one of her pumpkins in Antarctica, here are some of the permanent, international and public Kusama installations you can visit in 2018:
Titles: “Repetitive Vision” (1996) and “Infinity Dots Mirrored Room” (1996)
Location: Mattress Factory — Pittsburgh, USA
Mattress Factory, a unique exhibition of large and room-sized art pieces, became the first American museum to purchase a re-ascendant Kusama’s works (two Infinity Rooms) for permanent exhibition.
Title: “Narcissus Garden” (2009)
Location: Inhotim Institute — Minas Gerais, Brazil
Before the scandal of her nude Vietnam War protests, Kusama made a name for herself on the lawn of the 1966 Venice Biennale, where she dumped 1500 large metallic balls. To the chagrin of the event coordinators, who had paid but not actually invited Kusama, she showed up anyway and started selling her balls for $2 each, branding them “your own narcissism.” Brazil’s famous Inhotim Institute keeps the only permanent Narcissus Garden, though impressive temporary exhibitions come and go.
Title: “Infinite Accumulation” (2019)
Location: Liverpool Street Station — London, England
As a part of a 10-piece beautification of the London Underground, the British government is doubling down on the Kusama love. In December 2018, Liverpool Street Station will debut a large, metallic sculpture based on her narcissus garden pieces.
Titles: “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” (2013) and “Longing for Eternity” (2017)
Location: The Broad — Los Angeles, USA
The Broad in Los Angeles recently committed to Kusama long term, with major purchases of some of her most impressive works — and not for cheap, either.