See inside the New York Botanical Garden’s blockbuster Yayoi Kusama exhibition

Posted On Thu, April 8, 2021 By

Posted On Thu, April 8, 2021 By In Art, Bronx, Events, Museums

Dancing Pumpkin, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner

This Saturday, April 10, the New York Botanical Garden’s hotly-anticipated exhibit KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will open to the public and remain on view through October 31, 2021. The blockbuster show dedicated to legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was originally planned to open in May 2020, but of course, was postponed due to the pandemic. Among the works on view are Kusama’s famous polka-dot pumpkins, her larger-than-life flowers, and the famous Narcissus Garden, composed of 1,400 stainless steel spheres floating on water.

The exhibit will be spread across the Botanical Garden’s entire 250-acre landscape and will be the first-ever comprehensive exploration of the artist’s lifelong fascination with the natural world. In a message to NYBG, the artist said, “Dancing through our universe are noble souls whose magnificent forms are saturated with mystery. I invite you to explore the endlessly expanding ode to the beauty of love that is my art.”

Here’s some of what you can expect:


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

Painted in the artist’s signature black-and-yellow polka dots, the 16-foot high bronze sculpture Dancing Pumpkin is located on the Conservatory Lawn, a setting inspired in part by the birch forests near Kusama’s childhood home.


My Soul Blooms Forever, 2019, The New York Botanical Garden. Urethane paint on stainless steel, Installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Inside the Conservatory, My Soul Blooms Forever is a collection of huge stainless flowers, all painted in vibrant colors with polka-dot patterns. Located in the water feature under the recently restored dome of the Palms of the World Gallery, the flowers appear to be in motion.

Hymn of Life – Tulips, 2007, Mixed media, Courtesy of the City of Beverly Hills.

More massive flower sculptures make up Hymn of Life, located in the Conservatory Courtyard Hardy Pool (note the image above is the piece in a different location). The fiberglass flowers are positioned among water lilies and other seasonal aquatic plantings.

I Want to Fly to the Universe, 2020, The New York Botanical Garden. Urethane paint on aluminum, 157 3/8 x 169 3/8 x 140 1/8 in. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner.

In the Visitor Center Reflecting Pool, you’ll see I Want to Fly to the Universe, a 13-foot high “bright, purple-tentacled floral form with a vivid yellow primordial face.”


Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, 2002/2021, The New York Botanical Garden. Printed polyester fabric, bungees, and aluminum staples installed on existing trees. Site-specific installation, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist.

Along Garden Way, trees have been wrapped in vibrant red with white polka dots as part of Polka Dots on the Trees.


Narcissus Garden, 1966/2021, The New York Botanical Garden. 1,400 stainless steel spheres, Installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/ Shanghai; David Zwirner, New York; Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

Narcissus Garden is installed in the 230-foot-long water feature of the Native Plant Garden. It’s made of 1,400 stainless steel spheres each nearly 12 inches in diameter. “The reflective orbs float on the water’s surface, moved by wind and currents, each mirroring the environment around them to captivating effect,” according to NYBG.


Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity, 2017, Mirrors, acrylic, glass, LEDs, wood panels, Collection of the artist.

What is sure to be one of the most popular (and Instagrammed) parts of the show is Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity, a combination of Kusama’s famous polka-dot pumpkins and her mirrored infinity room installations. Put together as a glass cube reflecting an infinity of glowing polka-dotted pumpkins within it, the piece will be viewed from the outside. “The installation changes over time as pumpkins illuminate and then fade to darkness in a meditative choreography,” explains NYBG.

Of her pumpkins, Kusama has said, “My pumpkins, beloved of all the plants in the world. When I see pumpkins, I cannot efface the joy of them being my everything, nor the awe I hold them in.”

Though no photos are available yet, the exhibit will also include Kusama’s new Infinity Mirrored Room, which will open with interior access this summer. “Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart (2020), responds to natural light through colored glass throughout the day and seasons.”


KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, The New York Botanical Garden, 2021.

The Library Building features examples of Kusama’s botanical drawings, works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblage boxes, sculptures, and paintings on canvas depicting flora and its limitless variety of patterns. On the left of the image above, the massive painting is titled Alone, Buried in a Flower Garden. It also served as inspiration for a living work of art that mimics the painting’s bold shapes and colors.


Life, 2015, The New York Botanical Garden. Fiberglass-reinforced plastic, tiles, and resin, Installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner.

To see the exhibit, the New York Botanical Garden requires the advance purchase of timed tickets, which are available for dates starting April 10 through June 30.

And check out this 90-second video tour of the exhibit:

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