Yayoi Kusama, one of Japan’s most prolific and successful artists, surprised her fans and the art world in August when it was reported that the 88-year old artist was getting her own museum in Tokyo. The Yayoi Kusama Museum opens to the public today, October 1. We were there last week for a sneak peek into what visitors can expect from the 5-story building.
Visitors expecting a large-scale retrospective like the types we’ve seen staged by U.S. museums may be disappointed as the initial impression upon entering the ground level is that the space is quite small. But then again, what kind of venue would ever be able to hold the tremendous volume of works that Kusama has created over her vast career?
After moving through the reception desk on the ground level and paying the 1000 yen admission, visitors move to the 2nd floor, a space dedicated to Kusama’s black & white works.
A note on tickets: you must reserve advance tickets for a 90-minute window online. Tickets are released 3-months in advance and, as of now, tickets through year-end are sold out. Tickets for January 2018 will be released November 1 at 10AM Japan time. Anyone who has attended one of her large shows overseas will be accustomed to this format. If you’re able to score tickets, however, the experience should be quite serene. Only 50 visitors will be admitted at a time for one of four 90-minute slots per day.
The third floor is a large, open space dedicated to Kusama’s color paintings. A vaulted ceiling and a beautiful winding staircase beckon visitors to the 4th floor, where a single Instagram-friendly immersive infinity room awaits.
On the 5th floor is a small library with books and magazines dedicated to the life and works of Yayoi Kusama. There is also an outdoor space that’s home to one of Kusama’s newly-sculpted large pumpkins.
Kusama personally selected the works that are part of the current exhibition, which plans to rotate every 6 months. Speaking with the press, the artist expressed her love for humanity and her hopes for mankind. In her small and frail voice she explained that she wanted a place in Tokyo where fans of her work could come to. “I hope my works contribute to a society without war,” she said, hardly audibly. But it wasn’t necessary – her works spoke volumes.
(Many thanks to Tokyo-based photographer Cédric Riveau for photographing the opening exhibition)