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“KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature” Opens at The New York Botanical Garden

Dancing Pumpkin, 2020, The New York Botanical Garden Urethane paint on bronze, 196 7/8 x 116 7/8 x 117 ¼ in. (500 x 296.9 x 297.8 cm) Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner.

The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) announces the opening of its expansive 2021 exhibition, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, featuring work by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition includes four experiences debuting at the Botanical Garden. NYBG is the exclusive venue for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature. On view April 10 through October 31, 2021, the exhibition is installed across the Garden’s landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building. Advance, timed, limited-capacity tickets for the landmark presentation are required and on sale at nybg.org/kusama.

The exhibition, related programs, and accompanying publication reveal Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the natural world and its countless manifestations beginning in her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. The exhibition includes works from throughout Kusama’s prolific career and multifaceted practice. By integrating seasonal horticultural displays, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature further illuminates the power of nature that pervades the artist’s practice and dynamic body of work.

Multiple outdoor installations, including monumental sculptures of flora transform the Garden’s 250-acre landscape and the visitor experience. Her signature polka-dotted organic forms and mesmerizing paintings of plants and flowers are also represented. Recent vivid observations of nature, shown alongside earlier works that have never been publicly exhibited and those that are presented for the first time in the United States, trace Kusama’s connection to the natural world throughout her career.

Among the works created for and debuting in the exhibition are: Flower Obsession (2017/2021), Kusama’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse; Dancing Pumpkin (2020), a monumental sculpture presented on the Haupt Conservatory Lawn; I Want to Fly to the Universe (2020), a 13-foot-high biomorphic form presented in the Visitor Center; and, Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020), an outdoor installation reflecting its environs.

Spectacular seasonal displays complement the artworks on view, making each visit unique as new plantings, textures, and palettes are introduced. Glorious outdoor displays of tulips and irises in spring give way to dahlias and sunflowers in summer, and masses of pumpkins and autumnal flowers in fall. In and around the Conservatory, Kusama’s plant-inspired polka-dotted sculptures are nestled among meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, and other plantings. Stunning floral presentations bring to life one of Kusama’s paintings on view in the Mertz Library Building through a seasonal progression of violas, salvias, zinnias, and other colorful annuals. In fall, displays of meticulously trained kiku (Japanese for “chrysanthemum,” one of that country’s most heralded fall-flowering plants) will create a dramatic finale for the Conservatory displays.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature guest curator Mika Yoshitake, Ph.D., said, “For Kusama, cosmic nature is a life force that integrates the terrestrial and celestial orders of the universe from both the micro- and macrocosmic perspectives she investigates in her practice. Her explorations evoke meanings that are both personal and universal. Nature is not only a central source of inspiration, but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama’s artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present.”

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