By Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Yayoi Kusama is one of the most well-known Japanese artists. Her major works and style are instantaneously recognisable; especially her polka dot works and love of pumpkins. Her works are so popular that galleries are currently vying to host major exhibitions dedicated to her across the world. However, you may be wondering: where do you find some of her finest works in Japan? Today we explore Yayoi Kusama’s installations, exhibitions, and the new museum dedicated entirely to her art, in Japan.
Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Japan on March 22, 1929. Kusama trained at the Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts in a traditional painting style known as Nihonga. However she found the style frustrating and was more drawn to the European and American Abstract Impressionism. After stints of living in Tokyo and Paris, in 1958 she moved to New York, to become apart of the avant-garde scene, focussing on the pop-art movement through the 1960s. She became known after a series of ‘happenings’ she organised in New York, where naked participants were painted with brightly coloured polka dots: a style that she is now infamously known for in the art world.
Her works are mainly in sculpture and installation, especially notorious are her many installations of interactive ‘infinity mirror’ installations. In recent years she has expanded her repertoire with large scale exhibitions of painted series she has completed. Her works are based in conceptual art and has attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, pop-art, and abstract expressionism, and is imparted with sexual, psychological and autobiographical content, much of which is from experiences from her youth. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan.
Even today, at the age of 89, Kusama is still creating new works that are always eagerly awaited to be seen in the art world.
Let’s take a look at the best places in Japan to see some of the best and most important works that Yayoi Kusama has created.
YAYOI KUSAMA MUSEUM
Recently opened in October 2017 and located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, the Yayoi Kusama Museum is a must visit for any Yayoi Kusama Fan.
The custom built, five story museum has rotating exhibitions, including a floor just for her world famous infinity room installations. The museum has been sold out since it’s opening, with tickets only available online for three months in advance, and sell out quickly once released.
- Location: 107 Bentencho Shinjuku-ku Tokyo 162-0851 Japan
- Hours: Thursday to Sunday and public holidays: 11:00am - 5:00pm
- The museum may be closed between exhibitions, for maintenance, and during the New Year holiday. Please check ’Calendar’ before visiting.
- Admission: ￥1000
- Website: https://yayoikusamamuseum.jp/
- Tip - Tickets for the next month available are on sale on the 1st of each month at 10:00JST (August 2018 is on sale June 1st 2018)
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, TOKYO
The Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo holds many of Kusama’s painting and sculptures in it’s collection, spanning from 1950 - 2009. The pieces are shown in rotation through the museum's permanent collection.
- Location: 3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8322
- Hours: Tuesday - Thursday & Sunday: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM (admission until 4:30pm), Friday & Saturday: 10:00 AM-8:00pm(admission until 7:30pm), Closed Mondays
- Admission: ￥500
- Website: http://www.momat.go.jp/english/
- Tip - Admission is free on on the 1st Sun of every month, as well as May 18 and Nov 3.
Naoshima is a must see for any art lover. The quaint island is not far from Okayama, and houses some world class galleries that are built into the island, as well as spectacular installations through a series of old abandoned factories. For Yayoi Kusama lovers though, here is where you will find one of the most famous pieces: one of her pumpkins, sitting alone at the end of an abandoned pier at the entrance to the Benesse House gallery and hotel. Inside Benesse House, you can also find Kusama pieces and a gallery shop with exclusive items by Kusama. There is also interactive pumpkins at the main port of entry to Naoshima Island.
- Location: Gotanchi, Naoshima, Kagawa 7613110 Japan
- Hours: 8:00am - 9:00pm daily (Pumpkin is 24 hours)
- Admission: ￥1030
- Website: http://benesse-artsite.jp/en/art/benessehouse-museum.html
- Tip - You can stay on Naoshima at Benesse house, which gives you exclusive access to some installations. There are also many airbnb listings on the island if you want to spend more than a day trip exploring.
MATSUMOTO CITY MUSEUM OF ART
In the birth city of Yayoi Kusama, the Matsumoto City Museum of Art has many pieces of Kusama’s works in their permanent collection, including the famous sculpture ‘Flowers that bloom at midnight’ located at the entrance of the museum. This museum is a great place to discover the origins of Kusama.
Right now, and through to July 22nd, the special exhibition: Yayoi Kusama - All about my love is showing at the museum, and is the largest exhibition of Kusama’s that has ever been put on display. It is brining droves of visitors to the alpine town, so plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance.
- Location: 4-2-22, Chuo, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano-ken
- Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9:00am - 5:00pm, Closed Mondays
- Admission: ￥410 (Permenant exhibition only) ￥1200 - Yayoi Kusama - All about my love exhibition.
- Website: http://matsumoto-artmuse.jp/en/
- Tip - Purchase your tickets for Yayoi Kusama - All about my love in advance to skip the queues!
TOWADA ART CENTER
Located in northern Japan, the Towada Art Center has a collection of contemporary art commissioned from some of the greatest artists including Yayoi Kusama. In their outdoor space, her 8 sculptures making up the piece ‘Love Forever, Singing in Towada’ can be seen.
- Location: 10-9 Nishi-Nibancho, Towada-shi, Aomori, Japan
- Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9:00am - 5:00pm, Closed Mondays
- Admission: ￥510
- Website: http://towadaartcenter.com/en/
- Tip - With the Kusama installation located outside, a visit in the winter months can give a great experience of seeing it in snow. The bright colours of Kusama’s works against the stark white of snow is polarising.
KIRISHIMA OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
Located on the southern island of Kyushu the Kirishima Open-Air Museum has in it’s permanent collection several Kusama pieces indoors, and feature some of her most famous sculptures in their open-air segment, including: ‘Flowers of Shangri-la’ and ‘High Heel’.
- Location: 220 Koba 6340, Yusui-cho, Aira-gun, Kagoshima Japan
- Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9:00am - 5:00pm, Closed Mondays and some holidays
- Admission: ￥310
- Website: http://open-air-museum.org/en/
The above is just the some of the major permanent collections for viewing Yayoi Kusama’s work throughout Japan. It is always good to keep an eye out for some of her works in various art galleries throughout Japan, as they are quite proud of her work, and it can be found throughout the country. Also keep an eye out for special exhibitions in any areas you plan to visit (for example, the massive exhibition in Matsumoto right now, and the special exhibition ‘Pumpkin Forever’ currently showing in Kyoto). With most major cities hosting one every year or so, there is always a good chance to see something truly special from one of Japan’s greatest artists.
Have you seen some of Kusama’s pieces when you have visited Japan? What are some of your favourites?
Let us know in the comments below!