KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature at the New York Botanical Gardens

“I wanted to start a revolution, using art to build the sort of society I myself envisioned” Yayoi Kusama

It is the final week to visit Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Cosmic Nature’ exhibition at the New York Botanical Gardens.

I visited this show in August, literally while a cyclone was brewing, and had an awesome time! I highly recommend it to families, especially if you can bring a picnic and make a day of it.

Yayoi Kusama (b 1929), is one of the most renowned living Japanese artists. You may recognize her blood orange hair and pumpkins – they have been displayed in art museums all over the world (read more about her pumpkin obsession here).

Nature has been a huge inspiration for Kusama throughout her entire life so it was a lovely fit to see her sculptures and installations exhibited at a botanical garden!

The show, ‘KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature’ explores her lifelong love of the natural world including her fascination with flowers, leaves, pumpkins, and water. The exhibition describes ‘her artistic concepts of obliteration, infinity, and eternity are inspired by her intimate engagement with the colors, patterns, and life cycles of plants and flowers’ – keep this in mind as you scroll the pictures below!

The Infinity Rooms

Kusama is well-known for her ‘infinity rooms’, which are cubed spaces that have been fitted with mirrors, lights, and objects to construct infinite reflective installation.

A new infinity room was created especially for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature. Titled ‘Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020, pictured below)’ the installation is made of mirrors on the outside that reflect the beautiful trees, flowers, and fauna surrounding the artwork.

Infinity-Mirrored-Room (2020). Image credit: The New York Botanical Garden

The inside features an immersive dark room full of colorful reflecting dots (below, left). You need to pre-purchase tickets to enter the infinity room ($10 for 60 seconds, lol). Even though this barrier did slightly annoy me (American capitalism, sigh), I absolutely loved the installation and am so glad I got to experience it.

I visited on an extremely humid day (a cyclone literally hit that night, haha) but the heat did not stop me from taking many selfies

The show also featured a second infinity room of illuminated pumpkins (pictured below).

Image credit: New York Botanical Gardens

Flower Sculptures

Monumental flower sculptures are also installed across the botanical garden landscape. I loved seeing the pieces in ‘My Soul Blossomed Forever’ (2020, pictured below) in the greenhouse!

‘My Soul Blooms Forever’ 2020. Image credit: The New York Botanical Garden

Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020)

‘Hymn of Life – Tulips’ (2007). Image credit: The New York Botanical Garden

Kids Area

While the entire exhibition can be enjoyed by children, the botanical gardens has additionally put together a children’s garden. Titled ‘Kids Get Cosmic’, the section features mini storyboards (like a picture story book) sharing moments of Kusama’s life. There is also a paper activity resource children can do.

The kids Cosmic Nature section included a paper resource and mini billboards illustrating Kusama’s ideas and life
Another pic from the kids section. Lots of reference to Kusama’s time living in New York

Overall, I loved visiting this exhibition! It was the perfect ‘pandemic’ show – outdoors, being in nature, big ideas, and very uplifting.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is on show at the New York Botanic Gardens in the Bronx, NY from April 10 – October 31, 2021.

Further Links

Fausto Gilberti’s book ‘Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry’ is a great children’s book

A video interview with Yayoi Kusama on the Louisiana Channel titled ‘Earth is a Polka Dot’

A video of Kusama’s Obliteration Room on the Tate YouTube Channel

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‘I want to go to the universe’ (2013), Image credit: The New York Botanical Garden
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