Australia’s Biggest Yayoi Kusama Retrospective Will Debut a New Infinity Room

The show will also feature a new iteration of her celebrated installation, "Narcissus Garden."

Yayoi Kusama, 2022. Photo: © Yayoi Kusama.

An enormous retrospective of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s eight-decade career will take over the entire ground floor of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Australia from December 15. The exhibition’s 180 works, which pair the NGV’s holdings with significant loans, will bridge Kusama’s early works with her latest spectacles, including the Australian debut of two new site-specific installations, and a never-before-seen Infinity Room. Kusama assisted the NGV in curating the show, even contributing artifacts from her own archives.

An old black and white photograph of a ten year old Yayoi Kusama holding a huge blooming bouqet of flowers

Portrait of Yayoi Kusama (c.1939). © Yayoi Kusama.

“We’re proud to back the the NGV’s summer blockbuster exhibition,” said Steve Dimopoulos, Victoria’s Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, in a statement. “This must-see exhibition will attract visitors from around Australia and beyond—boosting our businesses and supporting local jobs.” The Hon. Colin Brooks, Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries, called it “another coup for our creative state.”

A photograph of a sparsely furnished room painted all white and totally polkadotted in all kinds of bright hues

Yayoi Kusama, The obliteration room (2002–present). Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art. © Yayoi Kusama.

“Yayoi Kusama” will play out across a thematic chronology starting with sketches, drawings, and paintings the artist made between the late 1930s and the early 1950s, while still living in Matsumoto, Japan—as well as from the late 1950s, when she left for Seattle, and then New York. Early family and personal photographs will help tell the rich tale.

Kusama’s gavel-smashing Infinity Nets paintings of the late 1950s and 1960s will demonstrate the development of her search for transcendence through vastness, and her Accumulation sculptures of the 1960s and 1970s will show her career-long affinity for repetition. Perhaps in lieu of the comments that clouded Kusama’s show in San Francisco last year, this show will share “archival materials pertaining to her socially engaged and politically charged performance and studio-based activities.”

A photograph of a sclpture where oblong abstract shapes spawn from a straightforward ladder

Yayoi Kusama, Traveling life (1964). The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: Norihiro Ueno

The second half of Yayoi Kusama will present the sensational sights that have since catapulted the artist to household name recognition. The artist will again redux her reflective breakout installation Narcissus Garden, which was nearly barred from the 1966 Venice Biennale and has been replicated in an array of settings since. The NGV noted it’s aiming to acquire this rendition through its 2024 Annual Appeal.

An image of a bright yellow pumpkin with an exaggerated shape on a densely patterned brown background with red borders on its left and right sides

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin (1981). Collection of Daisuke Miyatsu. © Yayoi Kusama.

Two attractions will mark their Australia premier: the NGV’s newly acquired Dancing Pumpkin (2020)—one of five made—which audiences will be able to dance beneath, as well the six-feet tall tentacles of THE HOPE OF THE POLKA DOTS BURIED IN INFINITY WILL ETERNALLY COVER THE UNIVERSE (2019). Another space will evoke Kusama’s New York studio to honor her exploratory psychedelic parties, among the many varieties of “happenings” she staged in the 1960s. Still, none of these fantastical sights and scenes will inspire the same glee and awe as the unveiling of her new “kaleidoscope” Infinity Room.

A photograph of a 36 year old Yayoi Kusama standing a red jumpsuit at the center of an early infinity room with white abstracted polkadotted forms covering the floor

Installation view of Yayoi Kusama, Infinity mirror room – Phall’s Field (1965) at the Castellane Gallery, New York. © Yayoi Kusama.

The artist’s polka dots will welcome viewers into the show from the NGV’s lobby, and Dot Vision, first realized in 2013, will form a whimsical cloud cover over the NGV International’s Great Hall. To truly complete her big Australian debut, the artist will also fabricate a site-specific artwork for the NGV’s iconic Waterwall. It’s not the NGV’s first time courting viral names to draw foot traffic, but it might be their biggest yet.

“Yayoi Kusama” is on view at the National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia, December 15, 2024–April 21, 2025.

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