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Yayoi Kusama

July 12–Sept 30, 2012

Yayoi Kusama in Yellow Tree furniture room at Aich triennale, Nagoya, Japan, 2010 (detail). © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusma Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; and Gagosian Gallery New York
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Accumulation, c. 1963. Sewn and stuffed fabric, wood chair frame, paint, 35 1/2 × 38 1/2 × 35 in. (90.2 × 97.8 × 88.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 2001.342. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Tom Powel

Well known for her use of dense patterns of polka dots and nets, as well as her intense, large-scale environments, Yayoi Kusama works in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance, and immersive installation. Born in Japan in 1929, Kusama came to the United States in 1957 and quickly found herself at the epicenter of the New York avant-garde. After achieving fame through groundbreaking exhibitions and art “happenings,” she returned to her native country in 1973 and is now one of Japan’s most prominent contemporary artists. This retrospective features works spanning Kusama’s career.

Kusama’s Fireflies on the Water is being shown in the Museum’s Lobby Gallery in conjunction with the Yayoi Kusama retrospective. Timed tickets are required to view Fireflies on the Water and can only be reserved on the day of your visit at the admission desk. 

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Tate Modern, London.

Supported by

Additional support for the Whitney’s presentation of Yayoi Kusama is provided by Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, The Gage Fund, Susan Hancock/Royal T, the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council, The Japan Foundation, New York, and Linda and Andrew Safran.

With thanks to Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; and Yayoi Kusama Studio, Inc. for their support of the international tour of the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

Additional thanks to Gagosian Gallery for their assistance with the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in New York.

Related Events

Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Fireflies on the Water, 2002. Mirror, plexiglass, 150 lights and water, 111 × 144 1/2 × 144 1/2 in. (281.9 × 367 × 367 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Postwar Committee and the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and partial gift of Betsy Wittenborn Miller 2003.322a-tttttttt. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Jason Schmidt
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6:30–8:30 PM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper, 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm). Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photograph by Hal Reiff. © Hal Reiff
Free Daily Tours
3:30 PM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper, 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm). Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photograph by Hal Reiff. © Hal Reiff
Free Daily Tours
12:30 PM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Fireflies on the Water, 2002. Mirror, plexiglass, 150 lights and water, 111 × 144 1/2 × 144 1/2 in. (281.9 × 367 × 367 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Postwar Committee and the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and partial gift of Betsy Wittenborn Miller 2003.322a-tttttttt. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Jason Schmidt
Member Events: All Members
10–11 AM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Fireflies on the Water, 2002. Mirror, plexiglass, 150 lights and water, 111 × 144 1/2 × 144 1/2 in. (281.9 × 367 × 367 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Postwar Committee and the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and partial gift of Betsy Wittenborn Miller 2003.322a-tttttttt. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Jason Schmidt
Member Events: All Members
6:30–8:30 PM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper, 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm). Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photograph by Hal Reiff. © Hal Reiff
Free Daily Tours
3:30 PM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper, 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm). Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photograph by Hal Reiff. © Hal Reiff
Free Daily Tours
2 PM
Inspired by Tom Thayer's installation in the 2012 Biennial, Families make puppets in the new Whitney Studio, 2012. Photograph by Sean Carroll
Family Workshops
1–3 PM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper, 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm). Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photograph by Hal Reiff. © Hal Reiff
Free Daily Tours
11:30 AM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Fireflies on the Water, 2002. Mirror, plexiglass, 150 lights and water, 111 × 144 1/2 × 144 1/2 in. (281.9 × 367 × 367 cm) overall. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Postwar Committee and the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and partial gift of Betsy Wittenborn Miller 2003.322a-tttttttt. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Jason Schmidt
Member Events: All Members
10–11 AM
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper, 8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm). Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London. Photograph by Hal Reiff. © Hal Reiff
Free Daily Tours
7:30 PM
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The most comprehensive book devoted to the incomparable and iconic work of Yayoi Kusama. Yayoi Kusama, now in her eighties, has become a vital force in contemporary art and an influence on generations of artists. Arriving in New York City in 1958 from her native Japan, she embarked on a series of works that forged a new visual vocabulary—the Net paintings, which were composed of scores of small, thickly painted loops spanning large canvases. Her singular approach to art making continued in other extraordinary bodies of work, including the phallic soft sculptures which she later incorporated into full-scale environments. In 1973 she returned to Japan, where she lives and works today.

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In celebration of her retrospective at the Whitney Museum, Yayoi Kusama transformed two downtown Manhattan sites near the Whitney’s future home in the Meatpacking District.

On view through October 15, Kusama's Yellow Trees building wrap transforms a tall building into a giant canvas. The scrim at 345 West 14th Street at 9th Avenue features a detail of the original painting Yellow Trees (1994), greatly enlarged so that its powerful sinuous patterns envelop the new twelve-story construction project.

From early summer through September 25, visitors to Hudson River Park's Pier 45 enjoyed Kusama's vibrant multi-part installation, Guidepost to the New Space. Bright red polka-dotted forms nestled in the grass like a herd of otherworldly abstractions, transforming the pier and its spectacular urban skyline.

Support for Yellow Trees provided by DDG Partners. Support for Guidepost to the New Space provided by Gagosian Gallery New York and Hudson River Park Trust.

In the News

Review: “Vivid Hallucinations From a Fragile Life
The New York Times

"[Kusama's] works are triumphant, humorous celebrations of potential, vulnerability and defiance"
The Boston Globe

Interview: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotted Mind"
Bullett

"Kusama’s is a wonderful behind-the-music story, the outsider with destiny in her sights, who moves to the big city to prove herself, then collapses under the strain of striving, only to stage a comeback, bigger than ever."
New York Magazine

Video: Mo Rocca interviews Yayoi Kusama
CBS Sunday Morning

"Fame Becomes Her"
W Magazine