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Step into Yayoi Kusama’s Kaleidoscopic World

Culture

Rana Good | Scott Lynch | November 20, 2017
The inimitable Japanese artist invites New Yorkers into her colorful, never-ending infinity mirror rooms.

Yayoi Kusama’s mind-bending, larger-than-life infinity mirror rooms have arrived at David Zwirner Galleries, beckoning New Yorkers for an unparalleled artistic experience — and, of course, a great photo op.

Across the gallery’s two Chelsea locations is the exhibit Festival of Light, in which visitors can step into two mirrored spaces: “Longing for Eternity,” where colorful lightbulbs project an endless hexagonal pattern, and “Let’s Survive Forever,” in which stainless-steel balls are mounted to mirrored floors and the ceiling, creating an illusion of infinity. There’s also a room dedicated to another key component of Kusama’s art: a white space covered with red polka dots called “With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever.”

Kusama’s work explores themes of life, the afterlife, and our temporary existence as humans. “To create an endless mirror room had been my long-cherished dream,” she told Sleek Magazine. “The psychedelic images of lights make the world a kind of kaleidoscope, mirroring the light at the root of all things and luring anyone who entered the room towards infinity world. Thousands of illuminated colours blinking at the speed of light — isn’t this the very illusion of life in our transient world?”

Similarly, dots have featured prominently in Kusama’s work from the very start of her career. “Since childhood, I have been painting, for no special reason, numerous dots and nets, drawing from the hallucinations that seem to appear endlessly,” she told Autre magazine. “I can’t explain why if you ask me.” Now 88 years old, Kusama still paints every day, and repetition is a central theme in her everyday life.

Gallery

To say that Kusama’s exhibits are popular would be an understatement; the wait time to get into Festival of Light can be up to four hours. In order to avoid congestion, the gallery has imposed a strict “selfie rule”: visitors are allowed to spend no more than 30 seconds in “Longing for Eternity” and no more than 60 inside “Let’s Survive Forever.”

What is it that attracts so many visitors to Kusama’s works? Social media definitely plays a part — on Instagram there are thousands of photos of people posing in the mirror rooms. However, beyond being compellingly beautiful and shareable, the exhibit also has a deeply captivating quality that challenges our notions of space and time. Upon entering, visitors step into a dreamy, utopian world and a sensorially immersive experience that provides a strong break from everyday life.

In addition to the two Chelsea locations, David Zwirner’s uptown gallery also features Kusama’s work, mounting her Infinity Nets exhibit. So there are three distinct spaces where visitors can view the inimitable artist’s sculptures, paintings, and environments until December. While the wait times might be daunting, the experiences are too unique to miss.


To discover more distinctive culture, try Heritage | Fernet-Branca

Rana Good is a writer, editor, and producer whose work has been published in Dazed, AFAR, and Men's Journal. Originally from Switzerland, she has called NYC home for more than a decade and never gets tired of exploring the city's new bars, restaurants, and nightlife experiences.

Scott Lynch is a freelance photojournalist and food writer. More importantly, he has two amazing daughters and an inexhaustible love for New York City and its people.

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