Kaleidoscopic colours, polka dots, pumpkins and phalluses – the motifs (and obsessions) within 89-year-old artist Yayoi Kusama’s work are utterly distinctive. Although she has been producing work, prolifically, since childhood, it’s only in the past few decades that she has become an art-world phenomenon. Nowadays, every new Kusama show is a major, sell-out event, so don’t be surprised if queues for this one (The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe) stretch out the door.
It’s easy to see why Kusama’s rainbow-bright, immersive installations are huge in the age of Instagram – but before you go snapping away, it’s worth finding out more about her fascinating history, too. The artist has lived, voluntarily, in a Japanese psychiatric hospital for over 40 years, and was a pivotal but under-acknowledged figure in the New York Pop Art scene (Kasoi has long stated that Western male contemporaries, including Andy Warhol, passed off some of her innovative ideas as their own.)
Where is it?
The Victoria Miro Gallery, 10 minutes walk from Old Street Tube (don’t go to the other Victoria Miro Gallery, in Mayfair.)
How long does it run?
From Oct 3 until Dec 21.
How much does it cost?
It’s free! But you will need to reserve your slot in advance online. Based on the massive popularity of Kusama’s previous shows, it’s a good idea to book as soon as you can.
What’s the deal?
This new exhibition, The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe, features an array of brand new work across four rooms. The main draw, however, is that Kusama has created another version of her famous ‘infinity mirror rooms’ for the show, called My Heart is Dancing into the Universe.
Who’s behind it?
The Victoria Miro gallery has represented Kusama for over two decades, long before she became the sensation she is today. This is her 12th show for the gallery.
What is there to do and see?
The lower floor gallery is a pumpkin-infused hallucination in bold shades of red, green, yellow and black. The room is filled with three painted bronze pumpkin sculptures, and paintings of pumpkins and infinite dots.
Out in the gallery’s canal-side garden are three huge and brashly colourful flower sculptures. On an upper floor are a selection of square, bright canvases in the ongoing My Eternal Soul series, which have been slotted together in a massive, rectangular grid. It’s an uplifting yet moving series of fluid shapes, abstract lines, patterns of endless tiny eyes and child-like round faces.
Finally, the new infinity mirror room is a pitch black, mirror-lined space filled with glowing, polka-dotted round paper lanterns. The experience makes you feel as if you are adrift in some secret, strange corner of the galaxy, but it’s also somehow strangely comforting. Plus, you can probably get a great selfie.
How long does it take?
You may have to wait to enter the infinity mirror room, because only three visitors are allowed in at one time. Otherwise, we think you’ll probably want around 45 minutes to an hour to get round. It’s not a huge show, but the more you look at the work, the more intriguing details you notice.
Kusama’s brightly coloured work is joyous, quirky and brilliant fun – but can be curiously moving too. It’s worth the trip alone to see how an artist approaching their 90th birthday, at the height of their powers, is connecting with young people across the globe.