Kusama at the Hirshhorn and Elsewhere

This past spring, I and the rest of DC was introduced to the artist Yayoi Kusama through her “Infinity Mirrors” exhibit at the Hirshhorn. It was a limited run, February through May, and the hottest ticket in town at the time (closely rivaled by tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture).

About the Artist

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer. According to Wikipedia, she has worked in many different mediums and is considered a precursor to the pop art, minimalist, and feminist art movements. Most of the art I have seen of hers is sculpture. She is well known for her pumpkin sculptures, which I will say more about below.


Getting In

The tickets were free, but they were hard to get. You had to log in at a certain time several weeks before you wanted to go, hope the website wasn’t failing due to an overwhelming amount of traffic, and pray to snag one of the few tickets at a time that worked for you. The fact that the Smithsonian has started to do this is nearly as annoying as the standing in line at restaurants trend.

We were able to get tickets in April, and visited the exhibit. We went midday on April 1, and were braced for what we had been told to expect were hours-long lines. Somehow, despite it being a Saturday, the lines were not as bad as reported. They were still long though – I brought a book on my Kindle and finished the whole thing.

All in all, it took us about two hours to get through the six pieces. While there were several other pieces of art in the exhibit, the main attraction was the six infinity mirror rooms.

The Hirshhorn Exhibit

The infinity mirror rooms were an extremely cool experience. Each one was a small structure with a door which you could walk into. You got 30 second to a minute in each one. The staff would close the door and you would be surrounded by mirrors on every surface, with sculptures or lights in the room with you to create a very interesting effect.



It felt like not enough time to experience the wonder of going in the rooms, but if you wanted to you could wait in line again for a room. The lines were long, though, so we didn’t do that.


I do really love the pumpkins.



The rooms that had colored or flashing lights were probably the coolest, but it wasn’t possible for me to get any good pictures of them.



The final room didn’t have mirrors. You were given a sheet of colored dot stickers, and you could place them wherever you wanted inside the room, which was an apartment of IKEA furniture painted white. It was fun and interactive.

I very much enjoyed the exhibit, and did some research to see where other works of hers could be found.

Kusama in Japan

Unsurprisingly, there are several places in Japan where you can view Kusama works. There is now a Kusama Museum in Tokyo, which opened just after we visited the country.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Naoshima was because there are two Kusama pumpkin statues there.



The first is the red pumpkin right at the harbor in Miyanoura. If your ferry docks in Miyanoura, you can’t miss it. I definitely recommend walking over and checking it out. It has holes in it to see inside, and the floor in there lights up. It’s possible to walk inside.



The other pumpkin was my favorite. It’s near the art museum area of the island, at Tsutsujiso. You can get there via bike or bus. It sits out on the end of a dock. There’s something I find extremely compelling about it, and the scenery nearby is gorgeous.

A nearby museum gift shop sells pumpkin plushies and other pumpkin-patterned goods. I didn’t buy any, but I was tempted.



But that wasn’t the last Kusama pumpkin we saw in Japan.



Unexpectedly, we came across another Kusama pumpkin while walking around in Kyoto. There was an exhibit in a museum next door of Kusama works, but we weren’t feeling up for going in.

I now count myself as a Kusama fan, and hope to see more works of hers in other places.

Have you ever seen a Kusama work?



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