Take a Sneak Peek at Yayoi Kusama’s Highly Anticipated New York Botanical Garden Exhibition, Which Features a Brand-New Outdoor Infinity Room

The garden's planters and botanists are executing some some ambitious plans.

Yayoi Kusama in 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Yayoi Kusama in 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The New York Botanical Garden has finally revealed details for its eagerly awaited Yayoi Kusama exhibition, which opens in May.

Works by the Japanese artist will be scattered across the 250-acre garden grounds, with rows of trees wrapped in red polka-dotted fabric leading the way between installations.

“No trees will be harmed by the mounting of this exhibition,” NYBG president and CEO Carrie Rebora Barratt assured press at a preview of the show, which she described as “a mesmerizing indoor-outdoor spectacle that is designed to change with the seasons.”

And yes, there will be a new Infinity Room, titled Infinity Mirror Room—Illusion Inside the Heart. But this work is designed for the outdoors, and will respond to changes in natural lighting conditions.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

The exhibition will include never-before-exhibited works from the artist’s archive and four other pieces created specially for the show.

Kusama is also creating her first obliteration greenhouse, inviting visitors to stick fake coral-colored flowers on the surfaces of the building’s interior.

Although this will be the first time that Kusama has done a major presentation at a botanical garden, the setting is a perfect fit for the artist, whose work has always been linked to plant life. “[Kusama’s] fascination with the natural world is woven throughout her life,” Barratt said.

When the artist was growing up, her grandparents ran a plant nursery and seed farm near her home, and as a 16-year-old, Kusama filled an entire sketchbook with carefully annotated drawings of peonies. That work will be on view for the first time ever in the exhibition.

Yayoi Kusama with her family (circa 1929). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama with her family (circa 1929). Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Coming of age during World War II, Kusama, like other progressive artists, was drawn to plants life as a vital force that sought to overcome chaos and the nihilism of war,” said exhibition curator Mika Yoshitake, who was previously responsible for Kusama’s blockbuster 2017–19 North American tour.

Throughout the exhibition, the garden’s horticulturalists will augment Kusama’s vision with seasonal floral installations.

On the conservatory lawn, they’ll create a colorful backdrop for a new 16-foot-tall sculpture titled Dancing Pumpkin. The plantings will be inspired by the birch forests of Matsumoto, Japan, where Kusama grew up.

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity (2017). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity (2017). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

“We were more than a little daunted by the notion of creating living vignettes that could stand in conversation Kusama’s celebrated art,” admitted Todd A. Forrest, the garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections.

“It has been so much fun to learn about Kusama’s work, and to find plants that will match the vitality of her incredible self-driven painting.”

Most ambitiously, Forrest’s team will attempt to recreate ALONE, BURIED IN A FLOWER GARDEN (2014), a painting from Kusama’s “My Eternal Soul” series, with plants in the conservatory’s gallery.

Mimicking the canvas, which resembles an aerial view of a garden bed, sections of differently colored flowers will be separated by dark gravel.

Yayoi Kusama, ALONE, BURIED IN A FLOWER GARDEN (2014). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama, ALONE, BURIED IN A FLOWER GARDEN (2014). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Kusama exhibitions always draw long lines, so you’re going to want to plan ahead for this one.

But the garden is hoping to keep things running smoothly with two tiers of tickets, including specially timed entry passes for the Infinity Room that cost an extra $10. (Confusingly, Infinity Room access is not included in the Kusama All-Garden Pass.)

Tickets go on sale February 19 for members, and to the general public on February 26. The garden is setting aside 100,000 free tickets for low-income Bronx residents.

See more works from the exhibition and photos of the artist below.

Yayoi Kusama, <em>I WANT TO GO TO THE UNIVERSE</em> (2013). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama, I WANT TO GO TO THE UNIVERSE (2013). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Flower Obsession (Sunflower)</em>, 2000. Courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama, Flower Obsession (Sunflower), 2000. Courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Summer Flower</em> (1988). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama, Summer Flower (1988). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama around age 10. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama around age 10. Photo courtesy of the artist.cosmic nature

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Life</em> (2015). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Yayoi Kusama, Life (2015). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Kusama: Cosmic Nature” will be on view at the New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard, the Bronx, New York, May 9–November 1, 2020.


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