The Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents the first-ever Israeli exhibit featuring the extensive artwork of acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama opening on November 15.
The world-renowned 92-year old contemporary artist is showcasing her polka dots and large-scale infinity installations in a retrospective that brings together artworks produced over an 80-year period. The extensive survey will trace the artist’s work in Japan, Europe, and the United States, from early paintings and sculptures to immerse installations that “overwhelm the senses,” a statement from the museum says.
Calling her “one of the most important artists of our time,” the museum has said that bringing Kusama’s work to Israel for her first major exhibition in the country took years of waiting, planning, and logistics. The installation, A Bouquet of Love I Saw The Universe (2021), first opened at the historic Gropius Bau in Berlin, Germany in April 2021 after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was then decided that the exhibit would head to Tel Aviv thanks to a collaboration with Gropius Bau and Studio Kusama in Tokyo. In April, the Tel Aviv Museum announced the exhibit would open this month and continue through April.
The exhibit is curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, director of the Gropius Bau, and Suzanne Landau, with help from Shahar Molcho and Naama Bar-Or. Landau is a former head curator of the museum who came back specifically for this event.
“The art of 92-year-old Yayoi Kusama, which thrills millions of people around the world, encompasses drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, cinema, and fashion. Her entire oeuvre is mesmerizingly powerful, impressive and pleasurable at the same time. The presentation of her retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is definitely a unique event of historic magnitude,” said Landau in a previous announcement.
Ranked as one of the ten biggest and best art exhibitions opening in 2021 around the world, according to the museum, the extensive exhibit will feature over 200 works that span Kusama’s 80-year career, including four Infinity Mirror Rooms and works displayed for the first time, spanning almost 3,000 square meters in six galleries across the Museum’s two buildings.
Yayoi Kusama is also considered one of the world’s most popular artists. Much of her exhibit stems from her personal archive, which Rosenthal and the team have visited in person. The artist grew up in Matsumoto during Japan’s foreign policy of expansion in the 1940s and at the age of 19, she moved to Kyoto to study the traditional nihonga painting style at the Kyoto Municipal School of Art and Crafts. Kusama moved to the United States in the late 1950s and became increasingly well-known for her work in the 1960s, where she was part of the pop-art movement and hippie counterculture.
Kusama has worked with numerous media such as painting, collage, sculpture, video, installation, and fashion. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Amsterdam, Venice, Rotterdam, Milan, and more.
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The artist has not shied away from talking about her mental health struggles and has even said that art is like medicine to help her cope with problems. Kusama has often said that if it weren’t for art, she would have killed herself long ago.
Kusama has become a global brand and even celebrities like Katy Perry and Adele have performed inside her artworks. She is also known for commercial collaborations with luxury brands. Her partnership with Louis Vuitton in 2021 was said to have dramatically increased awareness of her work.
Infinity and self-obliteration are two main recurring themes in Kusama’s work, according to the museum, which highlights her obsessive patterns of dots and nets that cover surfaces as well as the mirrors that create dizzying displays of repetition.
Her Infinity Mirror Rooms and large-scale installations overwhelm and encompass each room they are in, including the two new installations created specifically for this Israeli retrospective. One is a gallery of hot pink with black polka dot inflatables that overpower like tentacles or tails towering toward the sky.
The exhibition is organized in chronological order starting with early works showcased in the Main Building which Kusama created in her hometown from 1934 to 1957. These are followed by innovative works produced after moving to New York. The section further features Kusama’s exhibitions in Europe in the 1960s and her performances and films, as well as her return to painting in the 1970s and 1980s. Her famous Pumpkin motif is highlighted here, including the 2015 Infinity Room: The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into The Heavens.
The viewer crosses the bridge between the museum’s historic building and the Amir Building to view the two new installations and then can take a look at an entire gallery dedicated to an ongoing series of paintings that Kusama has been working on since 2009. Seven of those paintings were painted in the past year, which offer insight into her current creative phase
Tickets for the Yayoi Kusama retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art are sold out through November, and most of December, with just a few left. Tickets are also available from January to April 2022.