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AGO to be only Canadian stop for highly anticipated Yayoi Kusama exhibition

#InfiniteKusama marks the first North American tour in 20 years for the celebrated Japanese artist

TORONTOYayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, the first institutional survey exhibition to explore the evolution of the celebrated Japanese artist’s immersive infinity rooms, will embark on the most significant North American tour of her work in nearly two decades. Following its debut at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on Feb. 23, 2017, which is the organizing institution, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will travel to four major museums in the United States and Canada, including the Seattle Art Museum (June 30–Sept. 10, 2017), The Broad in Los Angeles (October 2017–January 2018), the Art Gallery of Ontario (March 3 —May 27 2018), and the Cleveland Museum of Art (July–October 2018).

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors provides visitors with the unique opportunity to experience six of Kusama’s most iconic kaleidoscopic environments at once, alongside large-scale, whimsical installations and key paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the early 1950s to the present. It also marks the North American debut of numerous new works by the 87-year-old artist, who is still actively creating in her Tokyo studio. These include large-scale, vibrantly colored paintings and the recently realized infinity room, All the Eternal Love I have for Pumpkins (2016), featuring dozens of her signature bright yellow, dotted pumpkins.

“This is a rare opportunity to celebrate a living artist whose radical yet playful vision has had an amazing influence on art, design and contemporary culture throughout her decades of work,” said Stephan Jost, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO. “We are thrilled to partner with such a renowned group of museum partners to bring Kusama’s creativity to Toronto.”

“Yayoi Kusama, who, at this stage of her career, is a worldwide phenomenon, has the ability to inspire audiences of all ages with the power of her art. It is a privilege and an honour to collaborate with our four partnering institutions to offer audiences across North America the opportunity to experience more than five decades of her artistic output,” said Melissa Chiu, the Hirshhorn’s director. 

About the exhibition
Organized in rough chronological order, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors begins with the artist’s milestone installation Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field (1965/2016), a dense and dizzying field of hundreds of red-spotted phallic tubers in a room lined with mirrors.

The exhibition will also include Infinity Mirror Room--Love Forever (1966/1995), a hexagonal chamber into which viewers will be able to peer from the outside, seeing colored flashing lights that reflect endlessly from ceiling to floor. The work is a re-creation of Kusama's legendary 1966 mirror room Kusama's Peep Show (no longer extant), in which the artist used to stage group performances in her studio in the late 1960s.

Kusama’s signature bold polka dots will be featured in Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots (2009), a domed mirror room surrounded by inflatables suspended from the ceiling. More recent spectacular LED environments, filled with lanterns or crystalline balls that seem to extend into infinite space, will be represented by Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (2009) and Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013).

“As Yayoi Kusama’s work is realized in different spaces, each venue will offer a unique sensory journey through Kusama’s world,” said Hirshhorn Associate Curator Mika Yoshitake, who organized the exhibition. “When visitors explore the exhibition, they will inevitably become part of the works themselves, challenging their preconceived notions of autonomy, time and space.”

A selection of more than 60 paintings, sculptures and works on paper will also be on view, showcasing many of Kusama’s lesser-known collages, made after her return to Japan in 1973. These works trace the artist’s trajectory from her early surrealist works on paper, Infinity Net paintings and Accumulation assemblages to recent paintings and soft sculptures, highlighting recurring themes of nature and fantasy, utopia and dystopia, unity and isolation, obsession and detachment, and life and death.

The exhibition will conclude with Kusama’s iconic participatory installation The Obliteration Room (2002), an all-white replica of a traditional domestic setting. Upon entering, visitors will be invited to cover every surface of the furnished gallery with multicolored polka dot stickers, gradually engulfing the entire space in pulsating color.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will be accompanied by an exhibition catalog that takes an unprecedented interdisciplinary approach to her work and includes a catalogue raisonee of Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, along with an illustrated chronology and artist biography with newly-published archival material. The contributing authors will introduce new research that sheds light on this pioneering contemporary artist, including essays by Yoshitake, Gloria Sutton and Alexander Dumbadze and an interview with Kusama conducted by Chiu.

The AGO’s installation of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will be coordinated by Adelina Vlas, associate curator of contemporary art. More details will be announced as they become available.

About the Artist
Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Nagano, in 1929, and works at her studio in Tokyo. She studied traditional Nihonga (Japanese-style) painting in Kyoto and moved to New York City in 1958. There, she was active in avant-garde circles during the formative years of pop art and minimalism, exhibiting her work alongside such artists as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow—figures who have cited Kusama as influential to the development of assemblage, environmental art and performative practices. Kusama exhibited widely in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands in the mid-’60s, participating in exhibitions with artists associated with Nul, Zero and the New Tendency in Europe, where she began developing her interest in the optics and interactive elements of mirrors, electric lights, sound and kinetics. Kusama’s fame grew in the late 1960s through her radical antiwar happenings, which espoused nudity and polka dots in the streets of New York. Because of ongoing struggles with her health, Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, where she has since resided. In recent years, Kusama has achieved celebrity status as well as tremendous critical respect.

About the Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national U.S. museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. With nearly 12,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works, its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time--free to all, 364 days a year. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.

About the Art Gallery of Ontario
With a collection of more than 90,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

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