This one time in Wellington… Yayoi Kusama: The Mirrored Years exhibition


How far does one have to travel to see the quirky/fun works of Yayoi Kusama? For me I had to jump on a plane to New Zealand to see the Yayoi Kusama: The Mirrored Years exhibition in person. Kind of ridiculous considering the exhibition had just left Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art a few months ago and I would have had the luxury of walking to see it. Nonetheless I was so happy to be invited to the exhibitions opening night in Wellington, New Zealand at the recently refurbished City Gallery.

And what a gallery it was – Yayoi Kusama had turned the City Gallery building into an exhibition itself. It set the stage for those of us who weren’t familiar with Kusama and her work – the woman loves and continues to be heavily influenced by polka dots which she says are taken directly from her hallucinations as a child. While she is now living by choice in a mental hospital in Tokyo, Kusama was in New York during the pop art era, reigned over by the likes of Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

But she wasn’t popular by association. She was an artist in her own right.

“I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland.”

A modern day Alice in Wonderland she definitely is, with her seminal works from the 1960s and 1970s presented at Wellington’s City Gallery a must-see, even for those who don’t often attend art galleries. The exhibition includes new works – as we mentioned earlier, the building itself was covered with hundreds of multicoloured polka dots (image below) – and popular older works like her 1966 Narcissus Garden.

It was a piece that was first shown in 1966 outside the Venice Biennale when Kusama took over the outside lawn overnight with hundreds of stainless steel spheres. The story is that no one quite know how she pulled it off, but it became quite a spectacle when she started selling each mirrored ball for the equivalent of $2 but was soon asked to leave the area.

If you love wondering through passage ways and into closed door rooms to experience a representation of someone else’s fantastical head space, the Yayoi Kusama: The Mirrored Years exhibition is for you. It is a veritable wonderland of mirrored balls, polka dot rooms and works made out of protruding polka dot shapes.

Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years
27 September 2009 – 7 February 2010
Wellington City Gallery, New Zealand
Entry charges apply

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More from the ‘This one time in Wellington’ series:

Cuba street, the sights sounds and eccentricities
The Montana World of Wearable Art Show 2009
It’s time to do some shopping

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – was flown to Wellington thanks to Positively Wellington Tourism by Air New Zealand and stayed as a guest of the Bolton Hotel.