Polka dots, pumpkins, and mirrors—the work of artist Yayoi Kusama is instantly recognizable.
One of the most famous living female artists, the 90-year-old Japanese artist is a published author and filmmaker, has been named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and is part of Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection.
Despite being a household name, her path to fame was not an easy one. Born in 1929 to a conservative family, the artist broke with societal norms, which dictated that she marry and begin a family, and instead forged a career in art.
In the 1950s, after having formally studied art in Kyoto, Kusama took on the male-dominated New York art scene, earning the admiration of artists such as Donald Judd and Frank Stella, and going on to count another Crystal Bridges artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, as a friend and mentor. Despite consistently creating and exhibiting work, true success eluded her.
The artist was overlooked and often copied by her male peers—both Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg have been accused of plagiarism—and her first mirrored-room, created in 1965, a precursor to the Infinity Mirror Rooms that currently garner acclaim at museums worldwide, was copied by avant-garde artist Lucas Samaras and exhibited at Pace Gallery.
Despite numerous setbacks, which also included a mental breakdown in 1973, she has found increasing recognition and support, due in large part to her appearance at the 1993 Venice Biennale in which she transformed Japan’s pavilion into a mirrored polka-dot environment and cemented her reputation as an artist of importance.
Kusama is known primarily for her signature polka dots, which she claims to have begun painting after a childhood psychiatric episode during which she saw the pattern “covering the ceiling, the windows, and the walls, and finally all over the room, her body and the universe.” Crystal Bridges is excited to welcome one of her Infinity Mirror Rooms to the museum’s permanent collection this fall.
The room, called Infinity Mirrored Room–My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe, was created in 2018 and features endless technicolor pumpkins and paper lanterns among glass mirrors, creating the illusion that the polka dots stretch on forever. Visitors will be given the opportunity to walk through the room one to two people at a time, becoming immersed in the experience. It appeared in a Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro in London from October 3 to December 21, 2018, before preparing to make its way to its permanent home in Bentonville, Arkansas.
This is the second work of Kusama’s that Crystal Bridges acquired: the sculpture Flowers that Bloom Now, was acquired by the museum in 2017 and can be found in the North Forest.
The Infinity Mirrored Room opens at Crystal Bridges to the public on October 2, with a Member Preview from August 31-September 30. To learn more about the installation and to reserve your tickets, see here.
This post was written by Brittany Johnson, eCommunications Coordinator.