Lifestyle & Culture

Virtual Museum: Kusama on the Loose!

“Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees” by Yayoi Kusama, 2002/2021. Printed polyester fabric, bungees and aluminum staples, installed on existing trees across the New York Botanical Garden acreage. Collection of the artist. / Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

By Nancy McKeon

MyLittleBird began featuring “Virtual Museum” posts early in the pandemic, when museums, like just about everything else worthwhile in our lives, closed their doors and began enhancing their websites to reach online audiences starved for art. These valued institutions have now begun to reopen; nonetheless, their online offerings continue to flourish. So even though the New York Botanical Garden, featured here, is now open to the public (with the usual Covid caveats of limited access and timed tickets), MLB will continue to provide as much of a virtual experience as possible. After all, not everyone is able to pick up and drive to the Bronx to see the incredible creations of Yayoi Kusama any more than everyone can get to the Frick Pittsburgh to see the twin photo shows featuring Frida Kahlo.

It’s worth underscoring the way museums and other institutions have reached out to us over the past year. In our virtual pages, we’ve pointed you to the following: the Rijksmuseum‘s clever interactivity, Alexander Calder‘s archive, Raphael in Rome, Jacob Lawrence, Japanese woodblock prints, the Museum of Chinese in America, immersive Van Gogh, the Smithsonian’s Creative Commons initiative, Dorothea Lange at New York’s MoMA, the Museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in western Pennsylvania, the Jeanne Lanvin installation at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Balenciaga at the V&A, the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, the New York Frick Collection’s Curator series, Hillwood Estate and Museum in Washington DC, Winterthur in Delaware, the Phillips Collection in Washington DC and more.

In many cases museums have posted fairly complete visual accounts of earlier installations, not just the ones trounced by the virus. What treasure! And now . . . onward!

SOME OF US stood enviously on the sidelines back in 2017 while the more dogged snared tickets for Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” at the Hirshhorn in Washington DC. Now we have a second shot at experiencing the almost full-body joy of the 92-year-old Japanese artist’s work. Since Saturday, Kusama’s monumental sculptures have been practically prancing across the 250 acres of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

The 16-foot-tall bronze “Dancing Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama, 2020, commands the scene on the Conservatory Lawn of the New York Botanical Garden. Urethane paint on bronze. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner. / Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

It’s hard to imagine a more fitting counterpoint to pandemic horror than the dizzying dots that come to life on Kusama’s works. And while the Infinity Rooms displayed at the Hirshhorn enveloped crowds, a few people at a time, in womb-like wonder, the sculptures here explode and spread their cosmic message, of fascination with nature and its power, in all directions, to all comers.

“I Want to Fly to the Universe” by Yayoi Kusama, 2020. Urethane paint on aluminum. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner. / Photo by Robert Benson Photography.


“Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity” by Yayoi Kusama (2017) comprises a glass cube reflecting an infinity of glowing polka-dotted pumpkins within it. The mixed-media work, one of Kusama’s signature mirrored environments, is installed in the Visitor Center Gallery of the New York Botanical Garden. Viewed from the outside, the installation changes over time as pumpkins illuminate and then fade to darkness in a meditative choreography. Kusama has said of pumpkins, “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.” Collection of the artist.


Detail from “Hymn of LifeTulips” by Yayoi Kusama, 2007. Mixed media. Courtesy of the City of Beverly Hills.


“Narcissus Garden” by Yayoi Kusama (1966/2021) is 1,400 stainless-steel spheres, each nearly 12 inches in diameter. It’s installed in the 230-foot-long water feature of the Native Plant Garden of the New York Botanical Garden. The reflective orbs float on the water’s surface, moved by wind and currents, mirroring the environment around them. / Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

“Kusama With Pumpkin,” 2010. © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore /Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London / Venice; David Zwirner, New York.

I guess it wouldn’t really be a Kusama exhibit without an infinity room. This summer, when the Botanical Garden is hoping to allow interior access, Kusama’s new “Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart” (2020) will be opened. It responds to natural light through colored glass throughout the day and seasons. Reflecting the seasonality of NYBG’s landscape, the exterior will be on view with the opening of the exhibition. A separate timed-entry ticket will be required for limited-capacity access.

Kusama: Cosmic Nature, New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10458; 718-817-8700; Timed tickets are required. Garden and gallery pass, $35 for adults, $32 for seniors (65 and older) and students (with valid ID), $15 for children 2 through 12 (outdoor-installations-only tickets are $25, $22 and $12). Through October 31, 2021.




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