Kusama’s first museum retrospective in Germany unfolds across almost 3000 m² and features nearly 300 works from the last 80 years. Subtitled A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe, the exhibition spans gouaches on paper, accumulative sculptures, happenings and fashion work, culminating in Kusama’s recent paintings and a brand new Infinity Mirror Room. The immersive installation will be shown alongside a reconstruction of the artist’s first Infinity Mirror Room, presented in New York in 1965.
“Yayoi Kusama’s work is characterized by revolutionary interventions driven by the desire for an immersive union of body and artwork, and an urge to redefine the role of women in art.
– Stephanie Rosenthal, Director, Gropius Bau
Yayoi Kusama is one of Japan’s most renowned contemporary artists. The Gropius Bau has now granted Kusama her first major retrospective in Germany. The exhibition provides an overview of Kusama’s key creative periods over seventy years and highlights the importance of her artistic work in Europe and, in particular, in Germany. The retrospective not only presents faithful reconstructions of her groundbreaking exhibitions but also a new Infinity Mirror Room, recent paintings and an installation – especially created for the exhibition – which is on show in the atrium of the Gropius Bau.
Throughout her career Kusama has always engaged deeply with the act of curating and, as such, has devised ground-breaking formats that can be experienced in this chronological presentation. The retrospective begins with shows that were mounted in her hometown of Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama Solo Exhibition and Yayoi Kusama Recent Works (1952), in which the immersive nature of her practice was already beginning to take shape. These are followed by Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963), Kusama’s first environment in New York, anticipating her preoccupation with the idea of self-obliteration and infinity, which remains a central premise of her work.
A key tenet of the exhibition focuses on Kusama’s ongoing selfenactment, blurring the boundaries between her body and surroundings, subject and object, inside and outside – a practice that was also reflected in the work of other artists who were active in the 1960s, when “life and art” began to converge. Kusama used her own body in her works as a placeholder, or in other words, as a proxy for the bodies of viewers. Such a gesture could be read as pre-empting today’s selfie culture – a will to be part of the action. Kusama’s own desire to merge with her works has always been associated with an obliteration of the self, an expansion into infinity, and remains so today.
“A key concern of our exhibition is to allow a wider public to experience Yayoi Kusama’s artistic cosmos and to give broader access to contemporary art with our special exhibition methodology. I’m particularly pleased that the Savings Banks Finance Group is sponsoring this exhibition. This cooperation is another highlight in the long-standing partnership which has connected our two organisations since the year 2003”, said Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau and curator of the exhibition.
Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective is curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau, in close collaboration with the artist and her studio in Tokyo, Japan. The exhibition draws extensively on Kusama’s personal archive which Rosenthal and the exhibition team visited in person.
Yayoi Kusama’s art has been shown in numerous exhibitions around the world. Galleries featuring her work have included: Boston Institute of Contemporary Art (2020); Matsumoto City Museum, Nagano (2019); Fosun Foundation, Shanghai (2019); MUSEUM MACAN, Jakarta (2018); Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2017–2018); National Gallery Singapore (2017); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2017); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2015); Fundacion Malba, Buenos Aires (2013); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2011–2012); and Tate Modern, London (2011) among many others. The Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in Tokyo in 2017. The retrospective at the Gropius Bau will subsequently travel to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel.
Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective, Installation view “THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS”, 2021, Gropius Bau, Photo: Luca Girardini
Yayoi Kusama, Untitled, c. 1962/63 Collage on paper, 60.5 x 63.5 cm, Courtesy: YAYOI KUSAMA
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room — Love Forever, 1966/94 Wood, mirrors, metal, lightbulbs, 210.2 x 240.2 x 205.2 cm, Courtesy: YAYOI KUSAMA, Ota Fine Arts
Yayoi Kusama, Kusama Fashion in her studio, New York, 1968, courtesy: YAYOI KUSAMA
Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective, Installation view “Driving Image Show, Essen, 1966”, 2021, Gropius Bau, Photo: Luca Girardini
Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective, Installation view “Infinity Mirror Room – The Eternally Infinite Light of the Universe Illuminating the Quest for Truth”, 2021, Gropius Bau, Photo: Luca Girardini
Yayoi Kusama, The End of Summer, 1980, Furniture, household objects, sewn stuffed fabric and paint Mixed media, YAYOI KUSAMA, Courtesy: Sammlung Goetz, Munich
Yayoi Kusama, ”Anti-War“ naked happening and flag-burning on the Brooklyn Bridge, 1968, Courtesy: YAYOI KUSAMA