‘Princess Of Polka Dots’ Yayoi Kusama’s Latest Exhibition Transforms The New York Botanical Garden

  • 13 Apr '21
  • 12:50 pm by Nuriyah Johar

Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama takes over The New York Botanical Garden in an exhibition titled KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, on view from April 10 to October 31, 2021. The exhibition is an exploration of Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the natural world and its countless manifestations beginning in her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. The ‘Princess of Polka Dots’ brings her signature style to the multiple outdoor installations, including monumental sculptures of flora and mesmerising paintings dotted throughout the 250-acre landscape. Kusama’s recent observations of nature, shown alongside earlier works that have never been publicly exhibited and those that are presented for the first time in the US, trace the prolific artists’ relationship with the natural world.

Dancing Pumpkin, 2020, The New York Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is installed across The New York Botanical Garden’s landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building. Given the extensive time period of the exhibition, the artworks on view will be complemented by striking seasonal displays, making each visit unique with the introduction of new plantings, textures, and palettes – from glorious outdoor displays of tulips and irises in spring, to dahlias and sunflowers in summer, and finally, masses of pumpkins and autumnal flowers in fall. In and around the Conservatory, Kusama’s plant-inspired polka-dotted sculptures are nestled among meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, and other plantings.

Ascension of Polka Dots On The Trees, 2002/2021, The New York Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

Among the works created for and debuting in the exhibition are – Flower Obsession (2017/2021), Kusama’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse; Dancing Pumpkin (2020), grand 16-foot high bronze sculpture painted in black and yellow, I Want to Fly to the Universe (2020), a 13-foot-high biomorphic form; and, Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020), an outdoor installation reflecting its surroundings. “For Kusama, cosmic nature is a life force that integrates the terrestrial and celestial orders of the universe from both the micro- and macrocosmic perspectives she investigates in her practice.” says the show’s guest curator Mika Yoshitake. “Her explorations evoke meanings that are both personal and universal. Nature is not only a central source of inspiration, but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama’s artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present.

Narcissus Garden, 1996/2021, The New York Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.
I Want To Fly To The Universe, 2020, The New York Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.