All posts in “Yayoi Kusama”

Visiting Tokyo’s New Yayoi Kusama Museum

Were you one of the more than 130,000 visitors to the Seattle Art Museum’s Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibition over the past summer? If so, then you’ll remember the citywide frenzy of excitement as everyone rushed to get tickets and be the first to post their Kusama selfies. I was lucky enough to visit twice while it was here. So when I learned that the legendary Japanese artist was opening a new museum in Tokyo in October 2017, the same month I would be there, I jumped at the chance to go!

Located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, The Yayoi Kusama Museum‘s sleekly curved white building was constructed in 2014, but its purpose was a local mystery until the museum was announced in 2017. The five-story space features paintings, sculpture, and the popular “infinity rooms,” as well as an archive and reading room.

The museum’s inaugural exhibit, Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art, focuses on Kusama’s recent work. If you saw the SAM exhibit, you’ll recognize the large, vividly colored paintings of her latest series, My Eternal Soul. Frenetic, pulsing with energy, and almost biological—like gigantic microscope slides of cells and amoeba—there’s an uneasy tension between the bright rainbow of colors that pull you in and the jarring, repetitive forms that repel the eye.

Visiting the Kusama Museum is a surprisingly hushed and peaceful experience. Only four sets of 70 people are admitted per day, so there were only a few people in each gallery. In the museum’s Infinity Room, we were allowed to stay for two full minutes, walking around the glowing cube of orange-gold pumpkins, and we could take all the selfies we wanted. With such a small crowd, it was easy to get into the Infinity Room alone—and now that I’ve done it, I believe silence and solitude is the best way to truly immerse yourself in the illusion of limitless space and light.

Speaking of selfies, you won’t want to miss the museum’s restroom. That might sound odd, but the restrooms and elevators are decorated with wall-to-wall mirrors and red polka dots. Photography isn’t allowed inside the galleries (other than the Infinity Room), but this might just be your best bathroom selfie ever.

Since the SAM exhibition featured five Infinity Rooms, some visitors might feel a bit disappointed that this museum offers only one. But Kusama is a prolific artist in many media, and her museum offers a carefully curated selection representing the themes and styles of her 65-year-long career. While they’re small, the quiet, uncrowded galleries make for a uniquely intimate atmosphere.

If you’re headed to Tokyo and interested in learning more about Kusama’s career and legacy, the Yayoi Kusama Museum gives you a chance to get up close and personal with her art—just as she intended.

IF YOU GO: The Yayoi Kusama Museum is open Thursdays through Sundays and national holidays (closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays). Reserve tickets for four timed slots per day on the first day of the month for the following month (e.g., December 1 for the month of January), starting at 10 am, Japan time.

Stephanie Perry, SAM Member

Photos: Stephanie Perry
Visitor takes photo of sculptures in Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at Seattle Art Museum

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

SAM News

Here’s Jennifer Sokolowsky of the Seattle Times on how social media is shaping art; SAM curator Catharina Manchanda speaks about the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors experience.

For art institutions evolving with technology and visitors’ tastes, it’s a delicate balance. “In the end, it’s, ‘How do you have a meaningful experience of art?’ and the answers will depend. From a curatorial perspective, I just want to make sure that the traditional and core mission of the museum lives on,” Manchanda said.

The Stranger’s Slog revived their Short Film Fridays feature to share the winning short films from the Wyeth Film Sprint; the results are appropriately strange and sad and surreal.

SAM earned a reader’s “Rave” in the Seattle Times for Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect; they noted among the patrons “a keen concentration I’ve never seen before.”

Local News

Seattle Magazine recognizes the “Most Influential Seattleites of 2017,” including SAM friends such as C. Davida Ingram, Inye Wokoma, and the KEXP Gathering Space.

Bookend the Jacob Lawrence centennial celebrations with Woodside/Braseth Gallery’s “William Cumming & Jacob Lawrence,” which, the Seattle Times notes, “offers a chance to dig deeper into these two artists’ legacies.”

KING’s Evening Magazine visits MOHAI’s exhibit of the expressive black-and-white photography of Al Smith, which “chronicles 65 years of Seattle history, the Central District neighborhood, and the people who inspired him.”

Inter/National News

Clearly the biggest art world news recently was the dramatic and record-breaking sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi.”

Antwaun Sargent for Artsy on the recent unveiling at Princeton of a public sculpture by Titus Kaphar, which was commissioned as part of the university’s reckoning with its history of slavery. Kaphar was the inaugural recipient of SAM’s Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize in 2009.

Madrid’s Reina Sophia unveils “Rethinking Guernica,” a free website—available in Spanish and English—that offers a visual timeline of Picasso’s most famous painting.

And Finally

Hyperallergic on a forthcoming book that investigates the aspirational kitsch of midcentury album art that expressed “an era of shifting desires.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at Seattle Art Museum, 2017, photo: Natali Wiseman.
Sammy the Camel in "Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors"

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

As of today, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is closed! What a wild ride the last few months have been during this blockbuster exhibition. Now we’re looking ahead to Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect and so is the press. Take a gander at this past week’s press clippings, hand selected by SAM’s PR Manager.

*Clutches Yayoi Kusama exhibition catalogue and cries while Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” plays*

SAM News

Seattle Times photographer Alan Berner visited during the final days of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors and filed this dot-filled send-off. Don’t miss the cameo from our mascot, Sammy the Camel. (Why a camel? Here’s the scoop.)

SAM lands on the celebrity news beat: When Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and singer Ciara had a date night at SAM after we’d closed, the news hit Page Six, W Magazine, Artnet, Ebony, Yahoo, Daily Mail, Entertainment Tonight, Jet, and HuffPo.

Love this Seattle Times RAVE for SAM staff: A visitor lauds our “daily, herculean efforts” during the Kusama run. We couldn’t have done it without our awesome visitors!

Seattle Magazine’s September print edition features our Andrew Wyeth retrospective among their picks for “Fall’s Most Buzzworthy Arts and Culture Events.”

“’The goal was to show that this unrelenting realist evolved and changed, sometimes quite dramatically, over time,’ Junker says. ‘If you think you know Wyeth’s art from the examples we see reproduced and hanging in the well-known museums, I feel certain you will come away from this exhibition totally surprised.’”

Local News

The Seattle Times reports on The Grocery, a new “cutting-edge” arts center in a former—you guessed it—grocery store in Beacon Hill.

Also in the neighborhood: Artist Ari Glass unveiled a new installation at Beacon Hill’s Art Deco building Pacific Tower, featuring his signature gold leaf and mica elements.

This should be an amazing show: The Stranger’s A&P features the sculpture of Humaira Abid, coming soon to a solo show at Bellevue Arts Museum.

Inter/National News

The journey continues for the home of Rosa Parks, recently shipped to Berlin and restored by an American artist. The house now has a ticket back home to the US—with an uncertain future ahead.

Poet John Ashbery died on Sunday at the age of 90; did you know he was also a collage artist, who made his solo debut as a professional at the age of 81?

Pierre Bergé, longtime business partner of Yves Saint Laurent, died Friday at the age of 86. We were honored to share his legacy during Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style.

 And Finally

The art of eating: Artsy with seven recipes from artists, including—wait for it—avocado toast (by Salvador Dalí, of course).

– Rachel Eggers, SAM’s Manager of Public Relations


SAM Staff Reads: Kusama’s Sleepless Midnight

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is quickly coming to a close (September 10!) but we have one more reflection on the prolific artist’s poetry from SAM staff. Read closely and let the words of Yayoi Kusama linger long after the exhibition leaves our galleries. The three poems we’ve shared here on SAM Blog were all published in Violet Obsession, a collection released in 1998 by Wandering Mind Books. Kusama’s poetry makes explicit much of the subtle and dark underpinnings of her playful visual art. In her writing, we can delve into the sentiments that propel the creation of her soft sculptures, her paintings, her yearning towards an experience of the infinite within a finite world—and these sentiments are perhaps unexpected when held in contrast to the Pop aesthetic that is strongly associated with Kusama.

Rayna Mathis is a writer, swing dancer, and history nerd. She chose to dig into Kusama’s poem, “Sleepless Midnight,” offering her thoughts on the divergence between what we project and how we are perceived as compared to what we feel and how we behave.


that I suffer such sorrow and gloom
more wounds than I know what to do with
inflicted by others upon my heart             on sleepless nights like this
I forget I’m covered with cherry petals this spring
I sit dazed by the pain in my heart as time passes me by
the world of men, like the realm of foxes and badgers, bewitched
I go out among people                   and am constantly amazed
they wound one another
behold the wounds and rejoice
ah!         what sort of        world is this?

leaving my body here for now
I stop suddenly                 and gaze at
a nameless wildflower
petals drinking deeply of sunlight
trampled by people, covered with wounds
just keeping silent
my bitter tears know no end


– Yayoi Kusama

When I read Yayoi Kusama’s poems, I can’t help but place myself into them. As I turned each page of Violet Obsessions, I became increasingly sad. However, sad is not a wrong feeling to feel. I appreciate things that force me (whether I am aware of it or not) to feel feelings I often deny myself. Anger, sadness, love, jealousy—the feelings society tells me that I am not allowed to feel—the feelings society does not acknowledge because I should have every reason to be happy, always. I become used to the conformity of the business voice, the polite laugh, the casual conversing of hellos and the weather. I become accustomed to crossing my legs while a man spreads his and speeding up when the catcalls latch on to my back.

But, Kusama isn’t here to adjust for anyone. And that is one of the largest reasons I have so much respect and admiration for her. She is so unapologetically herself and better yet, so unapologetically human. To embrace pain, to acknowledge fear, to speak and create despite other people’s comfort—it is chain breaking.

Many of the works in Violet Obsessions are uncomfortable. They are dark, and sad, and gross. Kusama challenges me to understand why I think any of those things.

When I think of the wounds I have inflicted onto others and what has been inflicted onto me, it is always the thoughts that are unspoken. The silence we feel compelled to keep. I wonder who it is that is “just keeping silent”? The petals beneath our feet—the ones we love but hurt through our selfishness? or the people covered in wounds, who have gotten used to their pain?

– Rayna Mathis, School & Educator Programs Coordinator

Source: Kusama, Yayoi. Violet Obsession. Translated by Hisako Ifshin and Ralph F. McCarthy with Leza Lowitz. Edited by Alexandra Munro. Berkeley, CA: Wandering Mind Books, 1998.
Illustration: Natali Wiseman
VSO Kay Dien Fox

Get to Know SAM’s VSOs: Kay Dien Fox

Kay Dien Fox was born in China and moved to Seattle with her adoptive parents when she was nine months old. The nickname her parents gave her, Kay Dien, not only fits her personality but also represent her culture and ancestral heritage. It originated from a combination of her legal name Katherine (Kay) and her Chinese name Dien Dien. Since graduating in March of this year, she took a road trip along the West Coast and travelled to Spain. After returning, she realized she should probably get a job and, fortunately, a friend sent her a link to SAM’s career page. She applied to become a Visitor Services Officer (VSO) and could not be happier that she did.

SAM: What are your thoughts on Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors?

Kay Dien: It’s an incredible exhibition and it doesn’t surprise me that it sells out every day. My favorite piece is The Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. The lights inside the infinity room are on a cycle so the visitor doesn’t know what part of the cycle they will get to experience. The room evokes various responses from the visitor, many exclaim how awesome the room is and some use the room to have a meditative experience.

What is your favorite piece of art currently on display at SAM?

John Grade’s Middle Fork. I didn’t initially read the description of this piece, but I got enough questions about it that I figured I should know more (other than that it looks like a big tree trunk). After reading the description of Middle Fork, it instantly became my favorite piece on display. Grade combined two wonderful aspects of life: art and nature, to make this prominent piece that hovers over the forum.

Who is your favorite artist? 

My favorite artist at the moment is the band The Antlers because of their album Hospice. It’s a beautiful album and not quite as depressing as the title would make it seem.

What advice can you offer to guests visiting SAM? 

Take your time—unless we give you the 15 minute warning, then please make your way towards the door.

Tell us more about you! When you’re not at SAM, what do you spend your time doing?

When I’m not at SAM I like to spend time outside and hanging out with people I care about. I also enjoy film photography and traveling. I’m still figuring out what I want to do in the future, but I am planning a 100 day road trip next year.

– Emily Jones, SAM Visitor Services Officer

Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Arts News from SAM, Seattle, and Beyond

All the news that’s fit to blog about. See what SAM’s PR Manager, Rachel Eggers, has been reading to find out what’s happening inside the museum and around the art world.

SAM News

For Crosscut, artist and writer Don Fels asks the question: “What has made Yayoi Kusama the hottest ticket in Seattle?” Don’t miss the fun time lapse video from the lines outside the museum (if only they had gone that fast!).

“It’s very fitting, almost willfully symbolic, that people are talking with one another as they stand together outside. She couldn’t have engineered delivery of her message better if she had tried, or maybe she’s been working at that very accomplishment all these years.”

Last week, SAM announced the five artists selected as finalists for the 2017 Betty Bowen Award, which honors a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work. The Stranger shared the news, along with Hyperallergic, Artnet, Artdaily, and The Skanner. Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner in mid-September—and for the winner’s solo show at SAM in April 2018.

Last week’s glorious Sculptured Dance event at the Olympic Sculpture Park was everywhere; dance writer Sandra Kurtz previewed it for Seattle Weekly:

“With the audience close enough to see the dust that those sneakers kick up and hear the slap of hands as they clasp in a fast turn (not to mention the mountains in the background), we get a fresh sense of a vital art form.”

The Stranger, Seattle Met and Crosscut also recommended the event; for those who missed it, helpful Instagrammers captured a bit of the evening’s magic.

Local News

Where’d You Go, Cate Blanchett? She and director Richard Linklater were spotted filming their adaptation of a famous Seattle book at the Central Library this week.

Coming soon to the airwaves of Rainier Valley: KVRU 105.7 FM, a low-power FM station serving the community.

The Mayor’s Arts Award winners were announced last week; CityArts reported from the sunny ceremony at Seattle Center.

Inter/National News

MoMA curator Sarah Suzuki and illustrator Ellen Weinstein teamed up to create a children’s book starring Kusama as the heroine.

Prepare for the film/art connections to be explored in Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect with this Artsy round-up of 17 artists and the films that influenced them.

The perfection of style: The New York Times files this inspiring slideshow of street style from the recent Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn.

And Finally

The project that’s achieving “a sense of shared destiny and common civic purpose” with one of my favorite things: LISTS.

– Rachel Eggers, Manager of Public Relations


Image: A pop-up performance during Summer at SAM by The Purple Lemonade Collective during Sculptured Dance at the Olympic Sculpture Park on August 31, 2017. Photo: Robert Wade.

SAM Shops: Take Infinity Home with You

Probably the first thing that pops to mind when you think of Yayoi Kusama is, polka-dots! And, yes, there’s plenty of those in Kusama’s work. But it’s what those polka dots represent that weaves a clear thematic thread through everything she makes. And we mean everything, including the Kusama-studio products in the SAM Shop on the 4th floor and on the ground floor. To Kusama, a polka-dot is a way toward the infinite: “Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos.” So it will come as no surprise that items produced by Kusama’s studio, from scarves to glasses cases, are covered in polka-dots. We’ve also got Kusama-inspired jewelry that makes use of this visual refrain in unique and surprising ways. Take a look at some of these items and don’t miss the SAM Shop during your visit to see Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, closing September 10!


Yayoi Kusama eye glass case, $16.95

Yayoi Kusama vinyl pouch, $15.95

Yayoi Kusama puzzle, $75

Red Coco neoprene bracelet, $72

Kusama Pumpkin

Kusama soft sculpture pumpkins, $250/$450

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Behind the Scenes of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

“All of the drawings, the paintings, and the sculptures that you will find in this exhibition, give you a context of how and why she arrived at these Infinity Mirror Rooms and why they are so very special.”
– Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Take a look behind the scenes of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors with curator Catharina Manchanda, on view at Seattle Art Museum until September 10. Don’t miss your chance for this in-depth perspective into a legendary artist’s 65-year career—Plan your visit to SAM today!


Portrait of Yayoi Kusama

10 Surprising Facts About Yayoi Kusama

There are eleven days left to see Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at Seattle Art Museum and by now, you’ve probably seen an infinite number of images of her artwork in your Instagram and Facebook feeds. Hopefully you’ve seen the exhibition in person as well! If not, learn more about Yayoi Kusama below and plan to line up at SAM for day-of timed tickets between now and September 10 to experience infinity through the immersive art of this icon, rebel, and visionary.

  1. Yayoi Kusama arrived in Seattle in 1957 with two kimonos and 200 paintings. This is the first city Kusama visited when she moved to the US.
  2. Kusama was pen pals with Georgia O’Keeffe, Richard Nixon, and the President of France.
  3. She partnered with Louis Vuitton to design a clothing line in 2012.
  4. Narcissus Garden, a rogue performance piece by Kusama, was installed outside of the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966 with the support of one of the curators, however she was asked to leave the premises.
  5. She was making Pop art before Andy Warhol.
  6. Assemblage artist and filmmaker, Joseph Cornell and Kusama had an intimate friendship that prompted his mother to dump a bucket of water on them once when she caught them kissing.
  7. The quintessential polymath, Kusama has published numerous literary works.
  8.  A firm believer in love forever, Kusama performed a gay marriage way before gay marriage was legal.
  9. In 2016, she was ranked as the most expensive living female artist on aggregate.
  10. Yayoi Kusama has been producing art work for more than six decades.
Image: Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016, Courtesy of the artist, © YAYOI KUSAMA, Photo: Tomoaki Makino.