Yayoi Kusama

Australia's biggest-ever Yayoi Kusama retrospective is coming to the NGV in Melbourne with a brand-new infinity mirror room.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 24, 2024


Here's three trends that'll be shining in Australia over the summer of 2024–25: spots, gourds and kaleidoscopic reflections. You'll see them all over your social feeds. You'll spy them in exhibition merchandise sported by anyone who visits NGV International. And, most excitingly, you'll be surrounded by the trio at the Melbourne art gallery, which is hosting a huge Yayoi Kusama retrospective as its summer blockbuster.

When we say that Yayoi Kusama, the exhibition, is big, we mean it. While the Japanese artist's work is no stranger to Aussie shores — and was the focus of a comprehensive showcase at Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art back in 2017–18 — NGV International's ode to the iconic talent is the largest that country has ever seen. Displaying from Sunday, December 15, 2024–Monday, April 21, 2025, it features more than 180 works, the world-premiere showing of a brand-new infinity mirror room among them.

The NGV has curated Yayoi Kusama with input from Kusama, with the end result stepping through the 95-year-old artist's eight decades of making art via a thematic chronology. Some pieces hail from her childhood. Some are recent. Her output in her hometown of Matsumoto from the late 30s–50s; the results of relocating to America in 1957; archival materials covering her performances and activities in her studios, especially with a political charge, in the 60s and 70s: they all appear.

Half of the exhibition is devoted to the past four decades — so, pumpkins galore; giant paintings; and an impressive and expansive range of room installations, complete with her very first infinity room from 1965, plus creative interpretations since from the 80s onwards. Again, this is a hefty exhibition. It's one of the most-comprehensive Kusama retrospectives ever staged globally (and the closest that you'll get to experiencing her Tokyo museum without leaving Australia).

If you're keen to be one of the first people in the world to be wowed by Kusama's new infinity room, it'll be as immersive as such spaces always are when she's behind them. Even the NGV team don't know the full details of the piece that's being produced especially for the exhibition, so it'll be a surprise to everyone.

Yayoi Kusama, 2022 © YAYOI KUSAMA

Eager to see a five-metre-tall bronze sculpture of a pumpkin? 2020's Dancing Pumpkin, which has just been acquired by the NGV, will feature. And, for the first time in Australia, 2019's THE HOPE OF THE POLKA DOTS BURIED IN INFINITY WILL ETERNALLY COVER THE UNIVERSE will unleash its six-metre-high tentacles — as speckled with yellow-and-black polka dots, of course.

Almost six decades since first debuting at 1966's Venice Biennale — unofficially — Narcissus Garden will be a part of Yayoi Kusama in a new version made of 1400 30-centimetre-diameter stainless silver balls. Now that's how you open an exhibition, as this will. NGV's Waterwall is also scoring a Kusama artwork specific to the space, while the Great Hall will be filled with the giant balloons of Dots Obsession floating overhead.

Basically, wherever you look across NGV International's ground level, Kusama works will be waiting, spanning paintings, installations, sketches, drawings, collages and sculptures, as well as videos and clothing. Dots will obviously be inescapable. One section of the gallery will replicate Kusama's New York studio. Over 20 experimental fashion designs by the artist will also demand attention. Infinity Net paintings from the 50s and 60s, Accumulation sculptures and textiles from the 60s and 70s, and a Kusama for Kids offshoot with all-ages interactivity (fingers crossed for an obliteration room) are also on their way.

The must-see exhibition for Melbourne locals and travel-worthy event for art lovers located outside of the Victorian capital will benefit from pieces from the artist's own personal collection — and rarely seen photos, letters (including to and from fellow artist eorgia O'Keefe), posters, magazines, teen sketch books and films — while others will be sourced from Japanese and Australian institutions.

Installation view of Yayoi Kusama's Chandelier of grief 2016/18 at Tate Modern, London, © YAYOI KUSAMA

Top images: Installation view of Yayoi Kusama's Flower Obsession 2017 on display in NGV Triennial from 15 December 2017 – 15 April 2018 at NGV International Melbourne. Image courtesy of NGV.

Yayoi Kusama. The obliteration room 2002–present. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art © YAYOI KUSAMA


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