Yayoi Kusama: From Nowhere to Infinity

“Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity”

By Jim Bleyer

Forget the old saw that the long-suffering, brilliant, starving artist achieves fame only after death.

Yayoi Kusama, at age 89, sits on top of the international art world.  Her nearly 3-year “Infinity Mirrors” kaleidoscopic feast at five North American museums has drawn multitudes of art lovers.  The final leg of the Kusama tour de force begins Saturday at Atlanta’s highly-acclaimed High Museum for three months.

It’s a tougher ticket than “Hamilton.”  If you don’t believe it, go find one on the secondary market.  Advance tickets are sold out but check below on how to obtain any of the very limited “day of” tickets remaining.

For Kusama, it took 15 years and a palette of grit, self-confidence, and independence to become truly recognized.  That equates to an overnight success in the art world.


“Phali’s Field”

Before she captivated, she had to conquer. The fifties New York art scene was dominated by white males. The Seattle-based Kusama reached out to Georgia O’Keefe for advice.  O’Keefe told her not to go there.

But Kusama’s artistic flair is more than matched by her determination. She went anyway.

Moving to New York City in 1958, Kusama became an instrumental figure in the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, especially in the pop-art movement.  At the beginning of her Gotham tenure, she endured tremendous emotional and financial hardships.

Kusama raised her profile by organizing a series of “happenings” where naked participants were painted with brightly colored polka dots.  Those polka dots became her signature design.

In 1972, she made ”Who’s Who” when that actually meant something.

Since the 1970s, Kusama has continued to create art, most notably installations in various museums around the world.  

Her stated goal is “for a brighter future and world full of peace.”

The High Museum provides visitors with the unique opportunity to experience six of the Infinity Mirror Rooms—Kusama’s iconic kaleidoscopic environments.      Visitors are allowed no more than 30 seconds in each of the rooms which are tiny spatially but are visually sensorial and expansive.

A must experience for anyone with the least bit of intellectual curiosity.

In addition to the flagship rooms, the exhibition also includes additional large-scale installations, sculptures, paintings, works on paper, and archival photographs and films from the early 1950s through the present.

The trajectory of Kusama’s work is fascinating and impressive.

Randall Suffolk, who recently completed his third year as Director of the High Museum, praised the Hirshhorn for adding the High as a sixth tour stop.  He indicated a great deal of lobbying was involved in landing the event.

” We pitched the fact that one of the most influential artists of the 20th century should have a presence in the Southeast,” Suffolk told Tampa Bay Beat.  “It aligns with the High philosophy of exhibiting diverse artists representing a variety of genres.”

No other museum in the Southeastern United States made a bid for “Infinity Mirrors,” Suffolk said, so it was a question of whether or not the Hirshhorn wanted to add a sixth tour stop.

“Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots”

General admission ticket prices:
$29 for visitors ages 6 and over
$5 for ages 5 and under

  • A limited number of tickets (approximately 100) will be available on-site at the Museum one hour before the museum for walk-up purchase beginning on Nov. 18.  
  • Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • Tickets are valid on the date of purchase only.
  • Tickets are limited to two per purchaser.
  • Available ticket times vary by date.

The exhibit was organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  Besides the Hirshhorn,  “Infinity Mirrors” was shown at Seattle Art Museum; The Broad, Los Angeles; Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Visit www.high.org for all details about “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors.”


Kusama socks, ten bucks a pair at museum shop




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