Yayoi Kusama Is Teaming Up With Balloon Specialists to Create a Massive Floating Artwork for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The giant inflatable artwork coincides with a show of her work at David Zwirner in New York.

Yayoi Kusama. Photo © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; David Zwirner, New York and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.
Yayoi Kusama. Photo © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; David Zwirner, New York and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

A new work by Yayoi Kusama is headed to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The Japanese nonagenarian artist has collaborated with balloon specialists, who are trained in 3-D modeling, aerodynamic design, and balloon fabrication, to create a floating artwork titled Love Flies Up to the Sky.

“We’re able to take an artist’s creation and, with our in-house artists, bring it to life,” Susan Tercero, the parade’s executive producer, told ARTnews. “We’re excited to recreate Kusama’s artistry and bring it to a parade scale. Her work lends itself to that playful whimsy that we like to see in the sky.”

Even for Kusama, whose blockbuster exhibitions routinely see lines out the door, the Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a huge amount of exposure: An average of 3.5 million people line Central Park West to watch the event in person, with 50 million more tuning in on television. The parade will coincide with Kusama’s upcoming exhibition at David Zwirner in Chelsea, opening on November 9.

The balloon will be the eighth in Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery series, launched in 2005 and featuring inflatable takes on works by contemporary artists. In 2018, after a five-year Blue Sky hiatus, the parade included a 23-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide balloon by artist duo FriendsWithYou, who designed a larger-than-life version of their signature cartoon, Little Cloud.

FriendsWithYou, <em>Little Cloud</em>. The balloon artwork was created by Macy's Blue Sky Gallery for the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo by Jeff Sampson courtesy of Macy's.

FriendsWithYou, Little Cloud. The balloon artwork was created by Macy’s Blue Sky Gallery for the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo by Jeff Sampson courtesy of Macy’s.

Other artists who have participated over the years include Jeff Koons with Rabbit in 2007, Takashi Murakami with KaiKai and KiKi in 2010, and KAWS with Companion in 2012.

It’s “a collection of high-flying art worthy of museums around the world,” Tercero said in a statement. “We can’t wait for millions to enjoy the hypnotic, colorful, and whimsical beauty of Love Flies Up to the Sky this Thanksgiving.”

Although you might expect her trademark pumpkin, Kusama’s addition to the parade—the first by a female artist—will be a sunlike figure from her colorful “My Eternal Soul” paintings, a series begun in 2009. The balloon also features Kusama’s trademark polka dots and tentacles.

A crew of 20 will be tasked with wrangling the balloon (which will measure 30 feet long, 36 feet wide, and 34 feet tall) during its trip from the Upper West Side to Macy’s at Herald Square.

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Love Flies up to the Sky</em>. This rendering shows her balloon design for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Image courtesy of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Yayoi Kusama, Love Flies Up to the Sky. This rendering shows her balloon design for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Image courtesy of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A number of “My Eternal Soul” paintings were part of Kusama’s blockbuster 2017–18 retrospective, which traveled to numerous museums including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Broad in Los Angeles.

A suite of 40 works from the series will be featured in the artist’s upcoming Zwirner show, along with a new Infinity Mirror Room and a new installation of reflective steel orbs, similar to Kusama’s famed Narcissus Garden. Next spring, the artist will have a show at the New York Botanical Garden; the institution announced yesterday that tickets go on sale to the general public January 29.

The 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starts at Central Park West and West 77th Street and ends at Macy’s, 151 West 34th Street at 6th Avenue, Herald Square, November 28, 2019, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.


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