YAYOI KUSAMA: MY ETERNAL SOUL (The National Art Center, Tokyo)

Yayoi Kusama is probably the most famous living artist in Japan today.  I can’t say that she is the most famous artist as I do not know if that is true.  She is famous for her artwork depicting pumpkins as well as her vivid colours and the use of polka dots.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with her artwork as I find it really strange, but the more I learn about her and her life the more I am fascinated with her artwork.

  • Venue: The National Art Center, Tokyo
  • Stations: Roppongi, Nogizaka
  • Date: 2017-02-22~2017-05-22
  • Admission: ¥1,600

Yayoi Kusama- My Eternal Soul

From the end of February until May 22, 2017, the National Art Center, Tokyo is featuring hundreds of Yayoi Kusama’s artworks in one of its galleries.  As part of the National Art Center’s 10 year anniversary celebrations, Yayoi Kusama’s works are fitting as they are showcasing one of Japan’s most famous artists.  The lines to buy tickets can be really long and there may be lines to get into the artwork but I feel it is worth it.

National Art Center, Tokyo

There are two ticket offices for the art centre, one located at the Nogizaka Station entrance and the other on the Roppongi side.  The Nogizaka entrance is the back entrance and I found the lines to be shorter on that side, but not by much.  Thankfully the line was only 20 minutes long and there were no waits to get into the exhibit itself.  There is information at the ticket office telling you how long the waits are, if there are any waits at all.

Line to buy tickets.

I then headed into the main lobby of the art centre.  Since I was entering from the back I was seeing things completely different to what was intended.  I saw the interactive artwork “Obliteration Room” where she set up a special room and all visitors are given dot stickers.  You are encouraged to put the stickers all over and go crazy with your creativity.  There was barely a white spot left in the entire room and it was a really wild artwork.  It is a play off of an older artwork of hers but this one is pretty small and with the thousands of people visiting, it was overwhelmed with layered dots pretty quickly.

Yayoi Kusama- My Eternal Soul

The main gallery is really big and you will see a lot of her artwork.  You are only allowed to take photos of her most recent works.  The gallery is split into 2 sections, a central area that showcases her works from, I believe, 1980, until today.  You are allowed to take photos in this area but only with point and shoot cameras and smartphones.  While I think point and shoots are not allowed, they didn’t seem too strict about it.  My DSLR was definitely out of the question though.

Note:  The following details what you can see so that you can make a decision on whether you wish to see the exhibit or not.  If you want to be surprised and experience her artwork for the first time, please skip to the last paragraph.

The artwork in the main gallery was really enjoyable and I felt that I learned a lot about Yayoi Kusama; it is a window into her mind.  If you have ever read interviews about her work, she often refers to the works as what she literally sees.  She has been plagued with hallucinations and crazy dreams since she was a child and the art helps her mitigate the horrors that she sees.  Some of the titles of the artworks made me wonder if that was what she was really thinking and what she was really seeing.

Yayoi Kusama- My Eternal Soul

The central area of the main gallery also included several sculptured flowers.  They were wildly colourful and beautiful at the same time.  I could only imagine what it would be like if I was there all alone.

Yayoi Kusama- My Eternal Soul

Surrounding the main gallery was a collection of her artworks from when she started doing art to when she became famous.  It starts with a collection of her early works which focused more on nature in a very dark form.  It looked like a gothic style art that really disturbed me.  You then see the progression of her art into the net art that initially made her famous.  I really didn’t like the net art as it is just a background colour that was covered in a net that was painted in another colour; at least that is what I though.

The next portion, if my memory serves me right, is her time when she did more sculptures that had phallic protrusions all over them.  Many different objects had worm like phallic growths and it somehow reminded me of Makoto Aida’s work on Ogijima.  This leads into the back portion of the gallery that focuses on her pumpkin and dot art.  You can even see a large scale pumpkin sculpture that is open to the public in the back, but you cannot visit it until you exit the gallery.

Yayoi Kusama- My Eternal Soul

After the back room was my favourite artwork from Yayoi Kusama.  She has a series of infinity rooms and I could spend hours in that room.  The only problem is that everyone wants to spend time in that room.  Photos are not allowed but it is a dark room with mirrors on the walls and ceiling with LED lights suspended from the ceiling.  It looks like an infinite room of flickering lights and as the lights change colour and intensity, it is like looking into space with billions of stars.

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Finally you are into her famous pumpkin and dot art area where you can see her collaboration with graf, an Osaka based furniture and design company that used her artwork to create fabric that was used to create furniture.

Once you finish the gallery you are into the gift shop and it was a mad house there.  I was interested in purchasing her book that showcases all of her public works but it was too big and expensive for me to purchase.  The line was also extremely long so I passed on it.  When I arrived, the line to pay for goods was about 20 minutes long, but when I was leaving it was only around 10 minutes.  If you only want a few postcards and the main book you can also go to the basement gift shop.  The store is open to the public so you can always return if the basement gift shop doesn’t have what you want.

The National Art Center, Tokyo’s Basement Gift Shop

The YAYOI KUSAMA: MY ETERNAL SOUL is a must see exhibit.  I really loved it even though I don’t really like her artwork.  I won’t be going back to the exhibit but it really left an impression on me.  If you are not a fan of her work at all, I doubt you will like this exhibit but this one has every style of art that she has produced in her life and is a must if you are a fan of her work.