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"KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature" Comes to New York Botanical Garden

Saturday Feb 1, 2020
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.  (Source:New York Botanical Garden)

The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) has announced highlights of its expansive 2020 exhibition "KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature," featuring work by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), including new experiences and immersive installations, four of which will debut at the Botanical Garden. NYBG is the exclusive venue for "KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature." On view May 9 through November 1, 2020, the exhibition will be installed in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, across the Garden's 250 acres, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building. Tickets for the landmark presentation go on sale to the general public February 26, 2020.

Visitors to New York can easily reach the exhibit in 20 minutes from Grand Central Terminal in Midtown via Metro North to the Botanical Garden Station.

New Kusama Works Debut
The exhibition reveals Kusama's lifelong fascination with the natural world beginning in her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family's Nakatsutaya seed nursery. Multiple installations will be on view, including her signature mirrored environments and organic forms, colossal polka-dotted sculptures of flora, and mesmerizing paintings of plants and flowers and their diversity of colors and patterns. Several of these works are newly completed and will be shown along with archival works that have never been publicly exhibited, and more that will be on view for the first time in the United States.

Among the new works debuting are:

  • "Flower Obsession" (2020), Kusama's first-ever obliteration greenhouse where visitors apply coral flower stickers throughout the interior;
  • "Dancing Pumpkin" (2020), a monumental, 16-foot-high sculpture presented on the Haupt Conservatory Lawn;
  • "Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart" (2020), an immersive outdoor installation responding to changing light throughout the day and seasons; and,
  • "I Want to Fly to the Universe" (2020), a brightly colored, 13-foot-high biomorphic form with a yellow face and polka dots.

    Complementing the artworks on view, Garden horticulturists will create spectacular indoor and outdoor displays through the seasons. Glorious displays of tulips and irises in spring transform into masses of pumpkins and autumnal flowers in fall. Kusama's plant-inspired polka-dotted sculptures will be installed across the Garden in dialogue with meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, and other plantings. In the Conservatory, stunning floral presentations will bring one of Kusama's paintings on view in the Library Building to life through a seasonal progression of violas, salvias, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and other colorful annuals. In fall, displays of meticulously trained kiku (Japanese for "chrysanthemum" and one of the country's most heralded fall-flowering plants) will create a dramatic finale for the exhibition.


    Infinity Mirrored Room — Illusion Inside the Heart  (Source:Yayoi Kusama, NYBG)

    Sketchbooks, Paintings & Polka Dots
    The exhibition will include works from throughout Kusama's prolific career and multifaceted practice. On display in the Mertz Library Building, her sketchbooks from adolescence signal the beginning of Kusama's connection with the natural world that has inspired her aesthetic and practice across mediums. This early work also portends avant-garde ideas she developed while living in New York between 1958 and 1973, as a contemporary of Joseph Cornell, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Claes Oldenburg, and continues to explore rigorously today.

    The Library Building presentation will also feature examples of her botanical sketches, paintings, works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblages, and recent soft sculpture and canvas works depicting flora and their limitless variety of patterns. "Life" (2015) provides an immersive experience as visitors navigate a circular space enclosing polka-dotted forms with mosaic surfaces. "Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity" (2017) comprises a mirrored cube reflecting an infinity of polka-dotted pumpkins. It is accompanied by a statement by the artist that reads, in part, "My pumpkins, beloved of all the plants in the world. When I see pumpkins, I cannot efface the joy of them being my everything, nor the awe I hold them in."

    Public Programs
    KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will be accompanied by a roster of public programs for all ages, including lectures; film screenings of "Kusama Infinity" (2018) and "Kusama's Self-Obliteration" (1967); fun-filled Polka Dot Picnics in spring; and Pumpkin Power Weekends in October with activities amid thousands of pumpkins of myriad shapes and sizes. Artist-designed merchandise will be available for purchase at NYBG Shop and there will be special Kusama- inspired menu items offered in the Hudson Garden Grill and Pine Tree Café.

    The KUSAMA All-Garden Pass ticket includes access to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Flower Obsession (2020) obliteration greenhouse, and garden features, including the Rock Garden, Tram Tour, Everett Children's Adventure Garden, and grounds. The KUSAMA All-Garden Pass + Infinity Mirrored Room ticket includes KUSAMA All-Garden Pass access, plus timed entry to the Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart immersive outdoor installation. Tickets go on sale for NYBG Patrons and Members on February 19, 2020, and to the general public on February 26, 2020.


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