ART: YAYOI KUSAMA, the Polka Dot Princess
If you can believe it Hudson River Park used to be a wasteland, only having been transformed in the last 10 years with trees and bike paths galore. Its latest playful addition is Yayoi Kusama’s polka dot plumps peeking out of the grass on Pier 45, also described as “hippos bred with ladybugs”. People have been asked not to climb, sit or play on them but that seems like it would be almost impossible to obey.
Try to wear these Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton designs when you go, it will make the pictures all that much better!
The installation is one outbreak of the polka dot fever across New York City, with others popping up in Louis Vuitton’s flagship display windows on Fifth Avenue and a Meatpacking District condo-building wrapped in what looks like a never-ending yellow cobra. All of this is in celebration of her current retrospective at the Whitney Museum which you can catch from now until Sept 30.
The 82 year old artist describes this as the “best moment of my life”, having had a tumultuous, yet true to avant-garde history creating art. As a young child she had hallucinations, explaining that flowers spoke to her and saw patterns coming to life. Kusama was a polka-dotted flower child of the 60s, hosting naked painting salons and street protest performances. Post-war disenchantment with the world caused her to retreat to Japan and work from her studio in a psychiatric ward, where she still resides today.
The retrospective includes bright colored paintings, sculpture and performance pieces spanning her entire career from the 1940s until now. A highlight is the precious “Fireflies on Water” in which people are allowed into an infinity room one by one, to witness the reflections of tiny lights in every direction, in hushed silence.
Strangely visitors are not allowed to take photographs anywhere in the exhibit, per Whitney Museum policy, and I say strange because Yayoi Kusama’s work is all about transcending the boundaries of surfaces and meshing what is real, with what is not. The artist always carefully places herself within her work, so that she becomes one with her surroundings, a state of existence we would all love to experience ourselves.