Has any artist’s joyful work ever been better suited for the outdoors than Yayoi Kusama‘s? Kusama, the Japanese contemporary artist perhaps best known for her blockbuster Infinity Rooms, has an upcoming exhibition opening April 10th at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx that showcases the full range of her whimsical, cosmic sensibilities in the forms of mirrored orbs, polka dot-spattered figures and polka dot-wrapped trees. During a time in which social distancing is still being widely encouraged as New York’s masses get vaccinated, this outdoor excursion is perfect for receding pandemic times.
Trapped in our homes for nearly an entire calendar year, New Yorkers have been craving novel experiences, color, irreverence and whimsy; we desperately want to escape the gloom of mass death and collective mourning. “People are just itching to be outdoors and to see something cultural again,” Nicholas Lechi, the New York Botanical Garden senior director of communications, told Artnet News in an interview. Furthermore, this exhibition doesn’t mark the first time that Kusama’s designs have graced the great outdoors in New York. In 2019, Kusama conceived a float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade called LOVE FLIES UP TO THE SKY that depicted a beatific, polka-dotted figure gazing down at the crowd.
More than just artwork and beauty, New Yorkers are looking for renewal during this heady springtime. Kusama pieces like Hymn of Life: Tulips speak directly to this human instinct for casting off the old and embracing the new, and others, like the trees she’s had wrapped in white polka dots, invite viewers to imagine new landscapes they couldn’t have dreamed up before.