The Queen of Polka Dots at Museum MACAN

Experience the Infinity Life of Yayoi Kusama

By Karmila Bain
Friday, May 18, 2018

The amazing art of renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has arrived in Jakarta. More than 130 pieces are have been on display at Museum MACAN (Museum of Modern Art and Contemporary Art Nusantara) since May 12.

The exhibition, titled Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow, will show until September 9. This is the last chance for regional and global visitors to experience the essence of Kusama’s work, because Jakarta is the exhibition’s third and final stop.

Previously, the Kusama exhibition was at Queensland Art Gallery; the Gallery of Modern Art (GACOMA) in Brisbane, Australia; and then at the National Gallery Singapore.

“Yayoi Kusama is one of the most recognizable artists and iconic figures of contemporary art; she is able to engage in the popular culture, able to speak clearly to diverse and different audiences,” said Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN.

Seeto hopes that as visitors go through the exhibition, they will be able to look up into Kusama’s world, the methods, ideas and inspirations of her works. Likewise, visiting Kusama’s exhibition is an outstanding experience – adding to the historical content of her life – displaying works from a range of diverse media from paintings to sculptures, and art installation rooms.

Born in 1929 in Japan, Yayoi Kusama’s work is characterized by colorful nets, dots, and pumpkins. Even when visitors first enter the museum area, they can see that something special is going on: the front building and escalators are covered in red or black dots on a yellow background. The whole museum is somehow turned into a colorful place.

At the entry area, there is a big yellow pumpkin to welcome all visitors. The Spirit of the Pumpkin Descended into Heavens (2015) is part of one of the artist’s prominent Infinity Mirrored Rooms, such as Brilliance of the Souls (2014), which has been on display in Museum MACAN since day one.

The exhibition explores Kusama’s long career spanning seven decades, starting from her early works in 1940 when she went to Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts despite the objection of her parents. She began experiencing hallucinations in her childhood and this marks her works by her compulsive use of repetitive circular motifs, making her style of art change into non-figurative and abstract.

In late 1950, she left Japan for the United States, where she felt she would gain greater artistic freedom. During that time, the Infinity Nets series were a consistent feature of Kusama’s practice and grew in scale when she was in New York. She began with small paintings on pieces of paper that later expanded into big canvases. The Infinity Nets have no focal point and can be expanded indefinitely.

The museum has also installed hundreds of mirror-polished steel spheres on the ground titled Narcissus Garden (1966/2018), an ironic Kusama critique of the economic situation that has impacted the art world.  

In other rooms, visitors will find paintings in the black and white theme Love Forever. The paintings, hanging on black walls, include the peep-box I Want To Love On The Festival Night (2017)in the middle of the room.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition is My Eternal Soul, featuring Kusama’s paintings from 2009 to present. Initially intended as 100 works, but now numbering over 500 colorful and optical illusion paintings.

Also, do not miss the most attractive and interactive art installation The Obliteration Room (2002) on the sixth floor. Visitors can place stickers provided by the museum anywhere in the artspace, which has been painted completely white.

Visitors can enjoy the exhibition in two batches. The first is from May 12–14 June, from 10am–8pm. While the second batch runs from June 18–September 9. Tickets can be bought online at ticket.museummacan.org or on the spot for Rp 100,000 for adults and Rp 90,000 for students and the elderly, and Rp 80,000 for children.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Cameras are not allowed, and include DSLR, SLR, and Polaroid. No flash photography
  • No tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, or any other photography tools are allowed
  • No food and drinks allowed in the gallery
  • Do not touch the artworks
  • All belongings measuring more than 32 x 24 x 15 cm must be stored in the cloakroom
  • Speak softly. Set your phone on silent mode and refrain from making phone calls in the gallery
  • Walk calmly.

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Aaron Seeto interviewed

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