Don't miss these Kusama works

Narcissus Garden.
Narcissus Garden.PHOTO: FELINE LIM
No. A.
No. A.PHOTO: PRIVATE COLLECTION, JAPAN
The Spirits Of The Pumpkins Descended Into The Heavens.
The Spirits Of The Pumpkins Descended Into The Heavens.PHOTO: NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE
Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights Of The Souls.
Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights Of The Souls.PHOTO: FELINE LIM
Song Of A Manhattan Suicide Addict.
Song Of A Manhattan Suicide Addict.PHOTO: FELINE LIM
Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow.
Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow.PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Here are six must-see pieces at the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at National Gallery Singapore

With more than 120 of Yayoi Kusama's works on show at the blockbuster exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow at National Gallery Singapore, there is plenty to see.

The exhibition is a comprehensive survey of the 88-year-old illustrious Japanese artist's works, spanning six decades from the 1950s to the present.

It is split into three sections that hone in on the development of her trademark motifs of dots, nets and pumpkins; Kusama as an artist; and her more recent series.

The Straits Times recommends six must-see works.


In City Hall Chamber

NARCISSUS GARDEN (2017)

Step into this garden of 1,500 stainless-steel balls scattered in clusters within the room and confront your reflection as you move closer to each sphere.

  • VIEW IT / YAYOI KUSAMA: LIFE IS THE HEART OF A RAINBOW

  • WHERE: Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery and City Hall Chamber, City Hall Wing, Level 3 National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road

    WHEN: Till Sept 3, 10am to 7pm (Sundays to Thursdays and public holidays), 10am to 10pm (Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays)

    ADMISSION: $15 (Singaporeans and permanent residents); $25 (non-Singaporeans). Visitors are recommended to pre-order tickets online

    INFO: www.nationalgallery.sg/yayoi-kusama

The work created controversy in 1966, when Kusama installed it at the 33rd Venice Biennale despite not being invited to exhibit. She also made a powerful statement by attaching the sign "YOUR NARCISSIUM (sic) FOR SALE" and selling each ball for US$2 to passers-by.

She was later invited to officially represent Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale with the installation and it continues to be displayed indoors and outdoors at various locations.

In Gallery A

NO. A (1959)

Besides Kusama's trademark dots and pumpkin motifs, her Infinity Nets series is another distinctive theme in her oeuvre.

She introduced these highly laborious works of art during her first exhibition in New York in 1959.

From afar, this Infinity Net painting resembles a monochromatic field of dots, but go up close and you will see arched loops of white, painted repeatedly over a black underlay. The intricate nets stretch across the entire surface and appear to extend beyond the frame.

THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS (2017)


The Spirits Of The Pumpkins Descended Into The Heavens (2017) by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. PHOTO: NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE

The pumpkin is reminiscent of Kusama's childhood and the artist considers the bulbous gourd an alter-ego.

In this work, she marries the vegetable motif with her signature dots, yellow-and-black colour scheme and infinity mirror room.

Gallery visitors step into a yellow-and-black dotted room with a mirrored cube in the centre. Peek through a square hole and be transported into an endless field of glowing dotted pumpkins.

In Gallery B

INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM - GLEAMING LIGHTS OF THE SOULS (2008)


Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights Of The Souls. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

A visit to a Yayoi Kusama exhibition will not be complete without stepping into one of her otherworldly infinity mirror rooms.

This is the only room-scale installation of the infinity mirror room at this exhibition. Only two people are allowed into the compact space at a time and can spend only up to 20 seconds inside, so be prepared to queue. The immersive experience is well worth it, though.

The mirror-lined chamber is pitch black except for dozens of coloured LED lights that flicker and pulse. They seem to go on forever and suggest an infinite cosmic universe.

SONG OF A MANHATTAN SUICIDE ADDICT (2010)


Song Of A Manhattan Suicide Addict. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

This video installation is one of the few instances at the exhibition where one gets to see and hear the artist. Kusama sings an original song on her experience dealing with depression, as a series of her artworks move behind her. It is a poignant glimpse into her psyche.

The work's title is drawn from her debut novel, Manhattan Suicide Addict, published in 1978.

In Gallery C

LIFE IS THE HEART OF A RAINBOW (2017)


Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

This vibrant painting is one of the new pieces that are fresh out of Kusama's studio in Tokyo.

It is also the exhibition's titular painting and is part of Kusama's ongoing My Eternal Soul series, which she started in 2009.

The artist is still going strong despite her age. She initially intended to complete 100 paintings for the series, but has created more than 500 so far.

The series is a tour de force of paintings and soft sculptures that not only encapsulate her trademark motifs over the decades, but also offer new forms and colours.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'Don't miss these Kusama works'. Print Edition | Subscribe