Thursday, 23 June 2016

Yayoi Kusama's Pumpkin Sculptures & Mirror Rooms

In a field of pumpkins Yayoi Kusama

Ever heard of Yayoi Kusama? No? See, me either. Though I don't really follow the art scene, I do read a lot of blogs and spend time on Instagram. Eventually, I came across the Japanese artists' mirror rooms of pumpkins. "That looks awesome" was my first thought, followed by "I have to go there" (since I love a good piece of art, fashion or exhibition). 

Some research later I found out that this amazing setting is the key exhibit of Yayoi Kusama's "Pumpkin, Pictures and Mirror Room" exhibition which is currently held at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London. As the gallery is (unfortunately) closed on a Monday and during the week I'm at work, a visit to the exhibition seemed to be THE perfect activity for a Saturday morning.

Getting out of bed on a Saturday at the usual early hour of 7am was hard. I have to admit I panicked a bit when I saw that the exhibition was only on until the end of July. Well, you may think that it is still soooo much time to the end of July, but June literally flew by like this for me *snaps finger* and as I've said, I'm usually busy in the day with work, so for me to see the exhibition was a "Now or Never" moment, screw Saturday morning!

The Victoria Miro Gallery is only a short walk away from Old Street Station and it is a beautiful old wharf building made of bricks - a wonderful space to showcase art! As the Yayoi Kusama exhibition is free, long queues and waiting times are forecasted. We must have been lucky and arrived at the right time, as we only waited ten minutes to get in.

Upon arrival we were given a leaflet with all the main exhibits of "Pumpkin, Paintings and Mirror Room" and our first stop was the magnificent Waterfront Garden in the back of the Gallery. Here, we admired an art installation called "Narcissus Garden" - 873 shiny stainless steel spheres with a diameter of 30cm swam peacefully on the surface of a small pond. The lush green of the surrounding trees and plants and the tranquil little fountain in the middle made this place truly magical. 

Narcissus Garden Waterfront Garden Victoria Miro Yayoi Kusama

We queued for the first mirror room "Where The Lights In My Heart Go", a pitch-black box with small holes to look outside. Inside, it made you feel like you were in space surrounded by stars but upon a closer look, you would see the pond and the queue outside. With a popular exhibition such as the Yayoi Kusama, it is understandable that visitors are only allowed for approximately 20 seconds in each mirror room. This is to ensure, that these incredible exhibits can be admired and appreciated by everyone plus it cuts down waiting times tremendously. 

In total, there are three mirror rooms displayed which have all been designed particularly for this exhibition at Victoria Miro. The other two “Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” and “Chandelier of Grief” place the viewer within a universe of varying proliferating reflections and play with the viewer's imagination.

We moved on to the second level of the gallery where paintings of the artist were displayed. The paintings feature mostly Kusama's signature pattern, the "polka dot" and I slowly remembered, that she had collaborated with Louis Vuitton a few years back with a massive window display of her artwork showcased at Selfridges on Oxford Street. Be aware of the staircase that leads up to the second floor!

stairs at the Victoria Miro Gallery
Pumpkin painting acryl on canvas by Yayoi Kusama
The Seeting Sun painting Yayoi Kusama

"New paintings displayed alongside these immersive rooms continue an enduring preoccupation with multiplying polka dots and dense scalloped ‘infinity net’ patterns –Kusama’s obsessive repetition of these forms on canvas, which she has described as a form of active self-obliteration, responds to hallucinations first experienced in childhood. The pumpkin, another motif that she has returned to throughout her career, is also present in the form of new mirror polished sculptures."  Press Release Victoria Miro.

pumpkin mirror polished bronze sculpture Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture close up
Pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama mirror polished bronze
Signature of Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture

My personal highlights of the entire tour were the pumpkin sculptures and the mirror room which makes you feel like you're standing in the middle of a pumpkin field. The mirror rooms are fairly small but because of the way they are laid out and the play of reflections you feel like you're in a much bigger space. At no point did I feel claustrophobic - on the contrary, the rooms are so peaceful and calming, that even though you're only allowed 20 seconds in there, you feel relaxed and can fully appreciate the artwork.

All the eternal love I have for the pumpkins Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama mirror room all the eternal love I have for the pumkins
artinstallation Yayoi Kusama all the eternal love I have for the pumpkins
Yayoi Kusama all the eternal love I have for the pumpkins mirror rooms at Victoria Miro

Yayoi Kusama Art Exhibition in London - The Details In Short

Entrance to the exhibition (25th May - 30th July) is free, however, it is very popular and you should bring some time with you when you visit the Victoria Miro Gallery (Old Street Station is the nearest tube). The Gallery is open from 10am-6pm every day except Mondays and Sundays.

You'll see one floor of paintings, one floor of pumpkin sculptures which feature Yayoi Kusama's signature pattern the "polka dot", three mirror rooms and a water garden art installation. 

Yayoi Kusama
Victoria Miro Gallery
16 Wharf Road
N1 7RW

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 

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