Spreading art through social media? Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama gives it the thumbs up

Spreading art through social media? Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama gives it the thumbs up

Ahead of her exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore, the 88-year-old avant garde artist says she is grateful how people share her art on different platforms, including social media. Meanwhile, the museum said they are prepared for the big crowds expected at the highly anticipated show.

Yayoi Kusama (I Want To Love On The Festival Night)
Yayoi Kusama's I Want To Love On The Festival Night, one of the infinity mirror boxes at the National Gallery Singapore exhibition Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow. (Photo: National Gallery Singapore)

SINGAPORE: Her colourful dots, pumpkins, and infinity mirror rooms not only delighted audiences worldwide, they are also now favourite subjects for the Instagram generation.

Ahead of the opening of her highly anticipated exhibition in Singapore, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama told Channel NewsAsia she is more than happy that people are spreading her art through whatever means possible — including social media.

Yayoi Kusama (With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever)
Yayoi Kusama's With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever. (Photo: National Gallery Singapore)

“My hometown used to lack understanding in contemporary art and that was hard for me,” the 88-year-old artist said, in an email interview from Tokyo, where she currently lives and works.

“Nowadays however, my ideas and creativity have become favourably received so much that it is reported in newspapers, on TV and in social media. It is important that my art is shared with so many people in many different forms, and I am grateful for that.”

Yayoi Kusama
File photo of Yayoi Kusama. (Photo: Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro, London, David Zwirner, New York)

Her first major survey show in Southeast Asia, titled Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow, will run from Jun 9 to Sep 3 at the National Gallery Singapore (NGS).

Comprising 120 works spanning 70 years, the exhibition is divided into three sections.

The first section looks at her trademark dots, nets and pumpkin works dating back to the 1950s, while the second looks at how she had tackled issues regarding the body, through her performances. The final section looks at her most recent creations. Throughout, audiences will be able to see a handful of her infinity mirror rooms.

While the acclaimed avant garde artist’s works are regularly seen at art fairs and galleries, the exhibition is the biggest in Singapore since she was first introduced to the public at the inaugural Singapore Biennale in 2006.


Her participation in that event, which included wrapping up the trees along Orchard Road with her trademark red-and-white dots, is something Kusama still remembers with much fondness.

“Seeing my installation at Orchard Road in 2006, my heart was filled up with delight and surprise of its beauty. I am happy that my art is back in this beautiful country of diverse culture. I have always been in awe of the wonder of life. This strong sense of the life force in artistic expression has been my belief as an artist and it is what supported me and gave me power to overcome feelings of depression, hopelessness, and sadness,” she said.

Kusama also had a special message: “To the people in Singapore that I love, I want to convey my message to live with the power of love and deep gratitude towards the infinite universe.”

Her Singapore exhibition, which will be travelling to Brisbane in November, comes at the heels of two very popular shows in Washington DC and Tokyo. Both have had to grapple with crowds, and at Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum, a visitor reportedly tripped while trying to snap a selfie and smashed one of her pumpkin works.


NGS director Eugene Tan said the museum was well aware of the crowds and long queues at both shows, and have introduced timed ticketing for the exhibition.

“Tickets will be sold every hour so there won’t be congestion in the galleries. We also had a test run last weekend and we’ll be refining it on a real-time basis to see how much more the galleries accommodate (people) and tickets we can sell,” he said.

The crowd crunch is also expected to trickle beyond the exhibition itself.

Yayoi Kusama (Gallery & Co merch)
Yayoi Kusama merch? Check. Among Gallery & Co's special merchandise for the exhibition are these enamelware inspired by the Japanese artist's pumpkins. (Photo: Gallery & Co)

The museum’s store, Gallery & Co, will be selling merchandise ranging from umbrellas and pins to cup and bowl enamelware. It will also be selling Kusama-themed food at its café.

Expecting a large number of people dropping by the store, Gallery & Co’s Arthur Chin said they have increased their manpower to 50 from the usual staff of six or seven.

It has also upped the number of merchandise it will be selling. “It’s easily 10 to 15 times more in terms of quantity,” said Chin, adding that two of their pin designs sold online were already snatched up within two days.

“People lined up for an hour in Tokyo but here, we’re expecting around 20 minutes. We’re prepared.”

For more details on the show and how to get tickets, visit the museum’s website.

Source: CNA/mm