Throughout her over 70-year career, Yayoi Kusama has invited audiences to participate in her pioneering visions of infinity, time and space, and challenged how we think about ourselves in this world and beyond.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, on view at the AGO from March 3 to May 27, will be a once-in-a-lifetime show. Drawing unprecedented response with over 100,000 tickets already sold, this exhibition will offer visitors the chance to experience six Infinity Mirror Rooms. But besides these rooms, there will be many other fascinating works to see, illuminating the full career of this celebrated artist.
Here’s a sneak peek at what visitors will find:
Works on Paper: Infinity, 1952
Kusama’s early drawings are intimate, organic worlds that she later expanded on in her Infinity Mirror Rooms. She produced these small-scale works in rapid succession, while living in her hometown of Matsumoto, Japan. This ink on paper drawing shows Kusama’s motif of infinity and dots from the very beginning of her artistic career.
Accumulation and Infinity Mirror Rooms: Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field, 1965–2016 (Floor Show)
In 1965, Kusama began using mirrors to overcome some of the physical limits of her art and to achieve her vision of repeated phallic-shaped forms. She spent the early ‘60s stuffing and sewing fabric tubes and attaching them by the thousands to furniture, found objects and wall hangings for her Accumulation sculptures—four of which you’ll see in the exhibition, including one in the Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field. These unending fields of polka-dotted phallic shapes are Kusama’s way of confronting her fear of sex.
Recent Paintings: Searching for Love, 2013
“What death signifies, its colours and spatial beauty, the quietude of its footprints, and the nothingness after death: I am now at the stage of creating art for the repose of my soul, embracing all of these.” – Yayoi Kusama
Beginning in 2009, this ongoing series includes more than 500 works (not all will be shown in Infinity Mirrors). With titles that often reference love and life, birth and death, the pieces express Kusama’s continuing exploration of infinity and the sublime through repetition and pattern. Packed with vibrant colours and bold designs, the works echo the organic shapes from her earliest works on paper and recall the expansive vision of her Infinity Mirror Rooms. The recurring motif of peering eyes, awakened to the wonders of time and space, are reminders that we are not alone in the universe, but are surrounded by memories, souls and spirits. Today, Kusama continues to create these paintings daily in her Tokyo studio.
Sculptural Installations: Narcissus Garden, 1966–present
“The silver ball is also representative of the moon, of sunshine, of peace. In essence it symbolizes the union of man and nature. When the people see their own reflection multiplied to infinity they then sense that there is no limit to man’s ability to project himself into endless space.” – Yayoi Kusama
As an additional presentation, the AGO will be showing Kusama’s installation Narcissus Garden in Signy Eaton Gallery from February 24 to April 29 (free with admission). In this version, 1,355 stainless steel spheres make up an infinite mirrored field that distorts and duplicates your reflection (and others’) as you move through it. The work was first installed in 1966 for the 33rd Venice Biennale, an international art exhibition occurring every two years. Kusama originally intended to sell the orbs to Biennale patrons for $2 each; a sign, “Your Narcissism for Sale”, accompanied the piece—a playful commentary on consumerism in the art world.
Don’t have Kusama tickets yet? The next opportunity for tickets to Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is March 6 at 10 am for the public or March 20 at 10 am for AGO Members. Online only.
Are you an AGOinsider yet? If not, sign up to have stories like these delivered straight to your inbox every week.