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Yayoi Kusama in Berlin

At Gropius Bau: a Retrospective dedicated to the major overview of world-renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (Matsumoto, 22/3/1929), with her most complex immersive project to date.
The installation A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe (2021) was realised by Kusama uniquely for the vast historic atrium of the Gropius Bau, which will erupt in a sea of large-scale inflatable tentacles for the exhibition’s duration.
Kusama’s first museum retrospective in Germany unfolds across almost 3000 m² and features nearly 300 works from the last 80 years. Subtitled A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe, the exhibition spans gouaches on paper, accumulative sculptures, happenings and fashion work, culminating in Kusama’s recent paintings and a brand new Infinity Mirror Room. The immersive installation will be shown alongside a reconstruction of the artist’s first Infinity Mirror Room, presented in New York in 1965. The exhibition will feature eight additional exhibition reconstructions from 1952 to 1983, alongside archival materials. Emphasizing Kusama’s lesser-known time in Europe, the exhibition also shows how Kusama’s performative works prefigured the self- staging of today’s social media and how she redefined the role of women in art.

“I am delighted that my retrospective exhibition will be held at the wonderful Gropius Bau … This is an exhibition that I will remember for the rest of my life. I thank you with all my heart, love and hope”. Yayoi Kusama, 2021.

Yayoi Kusama
A Retrospective A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe
23 April – 15 August 2021
Berlin, Gropius Bau.
The exhibition has been scheduled in November 2021 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.


“How to blur body and object, artist and environment, you and me? For Yayoi Kusama, such questions have been of integral interest to how and why she makes art.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, the artist trained in the practice of nihonga in 1948 at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts – an early-1900s style influenced by traditional Japanese painting, which she then rejected. In March 1952, Kusama, who was then only 23, exhibited a variety of watercolours, gouaches and oil paintings in her first ever solo exhibition at the First Community Centre in Matsumoto. The exhibition can already be seen as forerunners of her Infinity Nets series – abstract paintings of repeated curved brushstrokes, almost lace-like in appearance, in which she played with the notion of infinite repetition within infinite space.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“After emigrating to the United States in 1957, Kusama had her first solo exhibition at the Zoë Dusanne Gallery in Seattle. In the following year, she presented her Infinity Nets in a solo presentation at Brata Gallery in New York. Very quickly after moving to New York, she became a contemporary of Donald Judd, Ad Reinhardt and Agnes Martin, and by 1961 she had moved her studio to the same building as Judd and Eva Hesse. In 1965, after various presentations in New York, Kusama showed her first Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field at Castellane Gallery – perhaps the most important breakthrough for the artist during this immensely productive period in her career, and a springboard into her development of the spatial form for her Infinity Mirror Rooms.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“Kusama’s works were shown in Germany in 1960 as part of the exhibition Monochrome Malerei (Monochrome Painting) at the Museum Morsbroich. (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
At the latest since a successful presentation in the group exhibition Expositie Nul (Exposition Nul) in 1965 at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Kusama’s popularity in Europe has been steadily enhanced, prompting her to increasingly relocate her art production to Europe. (Greta Kühnast, pp. 202-210).
Gropius BauIn January 1966, Kusama moves to the artists’ colony Halfmannshof in Gelsenkirchen at the invitation of Ferdinand Spindel. At this time Udo Kultermann established contact with the Essen gallery M. E. Thelen, where Kusama’s first solo exhibition in Germany took place in the same year.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“From 1968 to 1969 she established a number of different businesses: Kusama Enterprise, which planned and produced happenings; Kusama Fashion Co., Ltd., which made and sold dresses designed by the artist; Kusama International Film Co., Ltd., which sold the films of her happenings; and Body Paint Studio Co., Ltd., which was – alongside other things – a modelling agency. She also published a magazine during this time, KUSAMA orgy. Alongside these entrepreneurial activities, she took up a political stance, protesting for peace in response to the Vietnam War by performing specific naked happenings.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“In 1973 Kusama returned to Japan and dedicated more time to writing and published a total of 20 short stories as well as novels and a collection of poetry between 1978 and 1999. By 1992, she was realizing large scale sculptures, exemplified not least by her pumpkin installation for the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art and at the 45th Venice Biennale, held a year later in 1993, where she adapted the work for the Japanese Pavilion.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“It was with the Jardin de Luseine exhibition 1983 in Japan that Kusama finally created what I would term a “Kusama world” for her audience, translating her own experience and perception of the world to implicate the body and experience of the viewer; obliterating herself first and then, by extension, others.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“Subsequently, since the early 2000s, Kusama has increasingly focused on painting – a practice that has its roots in the two- dimensional works that she began in 1952. This reached a climax in 2009 with her series of paintings My Eternal Soul, still ongoing, in which she creates an immersive experience for the audience specifically using her paintings.” (Stephanie Rosenthal, pp. 8-32).
“That Kusama should still be understood as a homo politicus is evident from her Message from Kusama of April 2020, in which she expresses her views on the worldwide Covid-19 crisis. It ends with the following words: “Now is the time for people all over the world to stand up. My deep gratitude goes to all those who are already fighting. Revolutionist of the world by the Art. From Yayoi Kusama.” (Yilmaz Dziewior, pp. 143).

by Alain Chivilò via Gropius Bau