DAY 2 (2/5): “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本), Japan, 2018.05.26
First appeared in 1966, the stainless steel balls floating in the natural flow of pond water of Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生)’s “Narcissus Garden” was a remarkable landscape art piece that we saw in 2013 at Inhotim, an outdoor art museum and botanical garden near Belo Horizonte of Brazil. During the same trip, we went on to see her retrospective show “Obsesión infinita [Infinite Obsession]” at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro. It was an mind-blowing experience to enter Yayoi Kusama’s world of polka dots for the first time. Four and a half years has passed. This time, we were fortunate to swing by Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama’s birthplace, on our way to the Japanese Alps and got a chance to see her latest show at the city’s art museum. Since its grand opening in 2003, Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館) has held three Yayoi Kusama’s shows. With 180 pieces in display, “All About My Love (私の愛のすべて) has become the fourth show for the famous daughter of Matsumoto.
Born in 1929 and raised in Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama is a prolific artist with a career spanning many decades. Since the age of 10, Yayoi Kusama experienced hallucinations of light flashes, auras, or dense fields of dots. These vivid imagery has since become a powerful source of inspirations for many of her works. In her childhood, she was also inspired by the smooth and fluid forms of white river stones near her home, which has led to another major influence in her works. Yayoi Kusama began exhibiting her works in Japan in 1950s. In 1957 at the age of 27, she moved to the United States to pursue greater freedom and respect for an avant-garde woman artist. She stayed in the US from 1957 to 1972, based mainly in New York City. In New York, she soon became an active member in the circle of avant-garde artists, befriended many artists and activists of her era, produced paintings, art installations, performance art, photography, and films, involved in a number of social movements including anti-war protests and opened a naked painting studio and a gay social club. She stood at the forefront of the avant-garde art scene and held exhibitions/ performances in established venues such as MoMA and the Venice Biennale. In 1973, she fell ill and returned to Japan. She checked into Tokyo’s Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill in 1977, and has stayed there since then. After leaving New York, she was soon forgotten in the international art scene until the early 1990s, when retrospective shows and large outdoor installations revived international interest in her works. Some notable pieces included the 1993 Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where she created a mirrored room filled with small pumpkin sculptures, and soon later, huge yellow pumpkin sculptures covered with black dots (representing a kind of her alter-ego) emerged around the world, and so as various reiterations of “Narcissus Garden” around the world. In recent years, collaborations with commercial labels such as Louis Vuitton and Lancome have further brought the veteran avant-garde back in the limelight.
It was just a 20-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle to Matsumoto City Museum of Art. The museum building was covered with the trademark of Yayoi Kusama, the Queen of Polka Dots.
We were greeted by Yayoi Kusama’s “The Visionary Flowers”, an eye-catching installation of three wacky-looking tulips that have stood at the museum forecourt since 2002.
After presenting our online-purchased tickets, we followed the coloured footprints and headed upstairs to the show.
Photography was not allowed for most of the show, except the common atrium and one of the painting galleries.
Somehow the red polka dots fitted in very well with the minimalist museum interior.
Another Yayoi Kusama’s flower installation inside the museum.
A paper cut of Yayoi Kusama was offered as a photo spot for visitors.
The room filled with paintings from the “My Eternal Soul” series was the only gallery that photography was allowed.
Visitors enjoyed themselves by making selfies in front of the colourful paintings.
Under the power of the Polka Dot Queen, even the food at the museum cafe provided an Yayoi Kusama experience.
Through a polka dot on the window, we could see a version of Yayoi Kusama’s most recognizable yellow pumpkin in the museum courtyard.
Polka dots were everywhere.
We couldn’t leave the museum without a closer look at the yellow pumpkin.
While most visitors went to make selfies at the yellow pumpkin, kids were having fun at the water feature in the courtyard.