Who is Yayoi Kusama? The Cleveland “Infinity Mirrors” Exhibition Open Now

Installation view of Dots Obsession — Love Transformed into Dots (2007) at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Mixed-media installation. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by The Cleveland Museum of Art.

The blockbuster, award-winning exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is open NOW at the CMA. Sold out in four venues during its two-year tour, this exhibition is well on its way to selling out in Cleveland with more than half of the 100,000+ tickets purchased thus far. Visitors from 48 states, other countries, and Washington, DC, have purchased tickets to the exhibition that features seven of Kusama’s captivating Infinity Mirror Rooms, including Where the Lights in My Heart Go, exclusive to Cleveland. In addition to the mirror rooms, this exhibition contains more than 90 artworks ranging from large-scale paintings and sculpture to works on paper and archival materials that demonstrate the evolution of Kusama’s ideas and span more than 50 years of the legendary artist’s career.

Video courtesy CBS This Morning.

For visitors who have not yet purchased tickets, weekly ticket sales will occur on Mondays throughout the run of the exhibition beginning Monday, July 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or until tickets sell out. On this day only, tickets will be available for purchase for any open date and time slot. After July 16, tickets sold during the weekly ticket sales will only include a date and time for that week. Visitors who have purchased tickets to the show can check out what to expect and plan their trip here.

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Photo by Tomoaki Makino. Courtesy of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama

Dive deeper into the significance of this legendary artist and her upcoming exhibition below with a Q&A from Reto Thüring, the CMA’s Curator of Contemporary Art, and Emily Liebert, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art.


Installation view of Infinity Mirror Room — Phalli’s Field (1965) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Sewn stuffed cotton fabric, board, and mirrors. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver

For the past six decades, Yayoi Kusama has worked across media, developing a groundbreaking body of work that has greatly impacted younger generations of artists. In 1993 she was the first solo woman to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale, and in 2016 Time magazine named her one of the world’s most influential people. Born in Matsumoto in 1929, Kusama moved to the United States in 1957, settling a year later in New York, where she lived for 15 years. Within the city’s avant-garde art circles, populated by figures such as Andy Warhol and Allan Kaprow, Kusama honed her unique artistic voice and began receiving widespread recognition. She created paintings and sculptures in her signature dot and net patterns, as well as installations and live performance works. In 1965 Kusama began integrating mirrors into her art when she lined the interior of Phalli’s Field, the first of many Infinity Mirror Rooms. Complex patterns emerged through the kaleidoscopic relationship between the mirrors and the materials inside the chamber, appearing to extend infinitely in all directions. The concept of infinity has been a central interest for Kusama; the idea continues to resurface throughout her work in diverse media. In 1973 Kusama returned to Tokyo, where she still lives and continues to work tirelessly at age 89.
 
 What makes Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors different from past surveys of the artist’s work? 
 
Throughout her career, Kusama has produced more than 20 distinct Infinity Mirror Rooms. The exhibition, organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and curated by Mika Yoshitake, is the first to focus on this pioneering body of work by presenting seven of the rooms, the most ever shown together. The Infinity Mirror Rooms range from peep-show-like chambers such as Love Forever to sprawling multimedia installations; each one offers the chance to enter a kaleidoscopic universe and an illusion of infinite space.

Installation view of Infinity Mirrored Room — Love Forever (1966/1994) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Wood, mirrors, metal, and lightbulbs. Collection of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver

Is the show’s presentation in Cleveland the same as at other venues? 
 
The most recent room in the series, Where the Lights in My Heart Go (2016), will be shown exclusively in Cleveland. Using natural light to create endless reflections, this work will be installed in the Ames Family Atrium with Narcissus Garden, a site-specific installation of hundreds of tightly arranged reflective steel balls that repeat and distort the space around them through their convex mirror surfaces. In addition, visitors will be greeted by the Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees — trees wrapped in polka-dot fabric — extending Kusama’s compelling artistic message and signature visual language onto Wade Oval.

Installation view of Where the Lights in My Heart Go at Victoria Miro, London, 2016. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Stainless steel, aluminium; 300 x 300 x 300 cm. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. © Yayoi Kusama

How does this exhibition relate to the current moment? 
 
Stepping into an Infinity Mirror Room is like being transported into a dazzling unknown space. While this experience has been compared to virtual reality, the rooms show, most fundamentally, art’s capacity to present alternatives to everyday life through relatively simple means. Providing a space for imagination and projection is one of art’s most valuable roles in contemporary life. Kusama’s paintings, sculptures, and drawings are equally expansive, opening themselves to myriad interpretations. The artist’s oeuvre integrates the influences of her early training and current surroundings in Japan as well as her formative encounters in New York. In this sense, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors represents the global perspectives that mark our era and that the Cleveland Museum of Art is committed to representing in its contemporary art program.

Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water; 287.6 x 415.3 x 415.3 cm (113 1/4 x 163 1/2 x 163 1/2 in). Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama