A new exhibition is currently showing at the National Gallery Singapore: YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow.
Yayoi Kusama is a world famous artist from Japan known for her iconic dots, infinity rooms, and pumpkin-themed artworks. This exhibition is a first in Southeast Asia, and it features more than 120 of her artworks since the 1950s ranging from paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations. She is the artist behind the famous infinity mirrored room at The Broad in Los Angeles.
I am no museum geek, but I enjoy visiting exhibits. I consider myself as a casual fan — I just look at the artworks, but I don’t actually understand them. But I try to research and read about them, though. Kusama’s art is so striking and colourful; it is such a joy to look at them. You won’t believe her art is mostly a reflection of her hallucinations and psychological trauma.
I’ll take you a tour of the entire exhibition, so expect lots of images your way!
Once you enter the gallery, you will already spot a Kusama-trademark art installation hanging playfully at the UOB City Hall Courtyard. This is called Dots Obsession.
Kusama’s exhibits are shown at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, and they are scattered across four galleries — Gallery A, Gallery B, Gallery C, and in the City Hall Chamber. Take note, though, that once you have exited the gallery, you are not allowed to re-enter (except in the City Hall Chamber). So make sure you to make the most out your stay in each gallery, but be courteous to other visitors, nevertheless!
Gallery A — Polka Dots and Pumpkins!
Gallery A will welcome you to all things polka dots and pumpkins. From paintings to sculptures to installations — they are everywhere!
There is a room in this section which is called the Yellow Pumpkin Mirror Room. Rooms like this are one of the popular rooms that you need to queue up for.
The room itself is not the installation. To see the actual work, you need to peek through a window. This is called The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens — this work creates the illusion of a vast expanse of pumpkins stretching as far as the eye can see (excerpt taken from the gallery brochure).
Once you exit Gallery A, more pumpkins will greet you! Aren’t they cute?!
Gallery B — Engagement with the Human Body
The next gallery, Gallery B, will welcome you with another queue to the installation called Invisible Life. It consists of mirror convex discs that reflect everything around it.
This gallery also carries eccentric sculptures and paintings which represent the human body.
In addition, there is a mini-section showing photographs of Kusama’s performances and self-obliterations. This section, however, is restricted; only accessible for persons 18 years old and above as it shows nudity and sexual contents.
Probably the most interesting and famous installation out of all her works is the Infinity Mirrored Room: Gleaming of Lights of the Souls.
You need to enter an enclosed room to be immersed into Kusama’s world of gleaming lights. The room can allow only up to four people at a time since there is just a small platform to step on to. You are allowed only to stay for 30 seconds. I suggest setting your cameras into burst mode so you can capture lots of photos with different light colours.
Gallery C — Love Forever & My Eternal Soul
The next gallery, Gallery C, is the biggest one which shows her paintings series, Love Forever and My Eternal Soul.
The Love Forever series shows 50 canvases filled with chains of images including eyes, dolls, gadgets, flowers, saw blades, and profiles of famous faces. The pictures in Love Forever were initially created with a black felt marker, a quick-drying and thus spontaneous medium that does not permit any revisions. This allowed Kusama to showcase her tremendous dexterity and drawing skills. The works were later turned into silkscreen prints on canvas (excerpt taken from the gallery).
At the center of the room, there is an installation called I Want to Love on the Festival Night. It is an infinity mirrored box which you can peek inside and see moving patterns of lights.
The next section is probably my most favourite. The room is called With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever; everything in this room is filled with colourful polka dots.
The last section of the gallery is a room showing the canvases from her painting series called My Eternal Soul. Included in this series is the painting called Life is the Heart of a Rainbow. The title of Kusama’s exhibition was taken from this particular painting.
Narcissus Garden at the City Hall Chamber
The last gallery is located at the City Hall Chamber, and it shows the recreated installation called Narcissus Garden. This gallery, by the way, is open for public.
Narcissus Garden was originally carried out in 1966 on the grounds of the 33rd Venice Biennale. It is an installation of 1500 reflective stainless steel balls. With this work, she wanted to connect art with everyday life, thus freeing it from the confines of the wealthy elite. She issued a statement with the installation which promoted her new vision of the artists collaborating with industry to experiment with ideas and materials, making art accessible to ordinary people (excerpt taken from the gallery).
The steels balls are not firmly attached to the floor; they are supported only with plastic bases. Thus, it is not allowed to squat on the floors. Be careful not to trip or nudge them!
You can wrap up your visit by visiting The Obliteration Room, which is a white room filled with colourful polka dots. This installation is part of the ongoing exhibition called the Gallery Children’s Biennale located at the Concourse Gallery 2. We missed this, unfortunately. 🙁
The whole tour can take 2 hours to finish. If you have extra time to spare, you can visit other exhibitions, which are also worth visiting.
Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow
National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957
Nearest MRT Station: City Hall MRT (North-South Line / East-West Line), Exit B
The exhibition will run from 09 June to 03 September 2017.
Admission to this special exhibition is priced at S$15 for locals and PRs (all access pass, includes general admission); S$25 for foreigners (special exhibition only). An all access pass (general admission + special exhibition) is also available for foreigners, which is priced at S$30.
It is advisable to book your tickets online as the ticketing queue onsite is always expected to be long, especially on the weekends.