In Infinity, Yayoi Kusama/ В бесконечности, Яёи Кусама

Yayoi Kusama, in her late 80s, is still one of the most celebrated, prolific contemporary artists of the world.

This Japanese Avant-Garde pioneer comes back with her grand retrospective tour – In Infinity. This exhibition travelled through the Nordic regions, started in Louisiana Museum (Copenhagen) to Moderna Museum (Stockholm), and finally to the Finnish capital. HAM, the Helsinki art Museum, opens the door for the publics to discover the features in Kusama’s fantasy world.

Kusama has multiple ipseities.

We cannot just define her art as a part of any movement or any -ism, nor in any style or any genre. We can recognize, of course, her distinctive dots, repetition of the elements and the infinite themes, but her style is in constant development, changing and recreating. She is, among a painter, a complete visual artist, a performer, and a poet.

We received a well-arranged guided tour in HAM, thanks to the curator in charge Claire Gould and conservator Barbara Radaelli-Muronen, who vividly brought out the essence of Kusama’s art.

The exhibition presents various life stages of Kusama. As Claire said, it is important to highlight the Kusama ‘s personal history. It starts from the early years, when she had a very hard relationship with her family, then moves to her 30s when she was leading liberal expressions during the “boom” of contemporary art in the United States, and concludes with her return to Japan, where she lived nowadays since 70s.

“I love the section of her early sketches, her early works,” said Claire, “because I think that give visitors a relevant and comprehensive image of who she was and how she became who she is now.”

An overview of the exhibition

There is a subsidiary exhibition on the ground floor close to the entrance, which is free of charge. So don’t miss is if you pass by Kamppi. It is a white room decorated with vintage furniture and objects covered with white paints. The visitors are encouraged to take part in the creation of this art piece. Each participant will receive a round sticker of solid primary colours when he/she enters the room. One can then place the dot on any surface of the chamber. Over time, the white is filled with colourful polka dots all around. We found this white council represents the universe and each dot refers to an individual.

Yayoi Kusama: Obliteration Room, 2002, 2015 (Installation Shot)

The majority of the exhibition happens on the second floor. The first thing came to visitor’s view is a majestic life-size doll of Kusama, exactly at the end of the stair steps which take you up to the second floor. It seems like she´s there with us, observing and welcoming us to her fantasy world.

Kusama suffered from hallucinations since childhood. Art has been the only elixir to keep herself alive in this world. Nowadays, Mss Kusama lives in Seiwa, Japan, by her choice, in a mental hospital, where she gets necessary support. She spends hours every day with precision to realize her works, calming her down and allowing her to express who she is.  Meticulous, in fact, is the characteristic associated with her works since childhood, from her early drawings presented in the museum.

“It´s a good example of how meticulous she was observing nature and then she takes a step forward, she abstracted things and created her own language.” said Claire.

Must-see: the mirror rooms

The exhibition features three spatial installations through mirror materials which draw our attentions.Each of these three rooms, “Mirror room in Infinity”, “Mirror Room (Pumpkin)” and “Hymn of Life” are made in different life stages of Kusama.

Once you step in, you can indeed sense the infinity together with a hint of hallucination in Yayoi´s fantasy. As Claire said:

 “Even if she tries to recreate some feelings of her hallucinations through these rooms, people not necessarily hallucinate themselves, but generally they give people joy, and they open people´s eyes to something that they have never seen before.”

These rooms are, in my opinion, the highlight of the retrospective. The conservator Barbara told how delicate those installations are and how challenging it is to maintain. For instance, the water in “Hymn of Life” has to be frequently changed.

Nonetheless, thanks to her hard work, visitors can fully engage in the sensorial stimulations, not only looking but also living in and experimenting within Kusama’s Fantasy world.

A wounded soul and a great spirit

Beyond all these fantastic art pieces, HAM yet offers the possibility engage even deep in Kusama’s life for those who want to learn more about her life in recent years. The 2008 documentary “Yayoi Kusama: I Love Me”, is available, free of charge, to watch on the second floor.

I recommend it because you can get to know in broad perspective who is Yayoi Kusama, how she lives, and how she works.

One thing that touched my heart is the sense of self-esteem that Yayoi has for her works. Like what she said,” artists cannot be alive without the belief that their works are the best of the world.” Self-consciousness, in fact, is the right key to open the door of success.

“People love the Kusama´s story, and they want to hear about her life,” told us Claire. Kusama not only demonstrates how art could be the savior for her wounded soul, but also opens up her heart to millions of visitors to gain great joy and strengths.

Gloria De Felice

Photos: Press kit, Ham Museum

“Я – превосходный создатель, гениальный во всём, что делаю. Художник должен верить в то, что он творит, в то, что его работы – самые лучшие.”

Яёи Кусама – художница-авангардитска, поэтесса и дизайнер, превосходный самопромоутер и глубоко погружённый в художественные образы трудоголик, работающий днём и ночью. Если бы она могла выбирать, в будущей жизни она стала бы художницей. Да и в прошлой жизни она была ею. «Чтобы воплотить все идеи и написать все работы, мне нужно жить по крайней мере лет до 400», – говорит Яёи.

Выросшая в патриархальной японской семье, где отец постоянно исчезал с женщинами, а мать закатывала истерики, одним из поводов которых была страсть Яёи к изобразительному искусству, она с детства начала страдать от галлюцинаций. У неё была только живопись, куда можно было сбежать. В 28 лет она сожгла свои работы и переехала в Нью-Йорк, откуда вернулась в Японию только через 16 лет. Сначала отвергнутая семьёй и японским обществом (её имя, например, было удалено из списков выпускников школы), в последствии Кусама получила Императорскую премию из рук принца Хитати.

Увидев покрытые точечным рисунком поверхности и повторяющиеся мотивы рисунков на рекламном постере выставки или в кратком репортаже с открытия, первое, что приходит на ум – поп-арт  и японское «каваии». Но, окунувшись в работы и в стиль их создания, понимаешь, что Кусама не вписывается ни в какую категорию. Она называет себя художником-авангардистом, но на самом деле является чем-то гораздо большим. Мир Яёи втягивает, всасывает в себя с первых же минут, в выставочном пространстве хочется остаться жить. Или хотя бы пожить, впитывая энергию вдохновения. Особенно если повезло оказаться там в одиночестве. Например, в созданном специально для Северного проекта лабиринте огромных мерцающих сфер, отражающихся в зеркалах и водной поверхности. Это путешествие в себя, в свои мысли и интенции. Или в мир Алисы в Зазеркалье. Вообще, зеркальная тема с её повторяющимися узорами отражений, в том числе собственного лица и тела, лиц и тел ваших спутников – один из основных сюжетов выставки, ведущей в вечность. В бесконечность.

Кусама – воин, она очень серьёзна и в процессе создания своих работ, и во время живых представлений. Её редко можно увидеть улыбающейся. Что бы ни было формой её творчества – живопись, рисунок, скульптура, дизайн одежды, перфомасы с обнажёнными телами, – она всегда знает, к чему идёт и что делает. Яёи не делает различий между, скажем, дизайном одежды или скульптурой. Всё является искусством, всё может содержать призыв к бою.

Говоря о работах Кусама, невозможно обойти образ тыквы. «В тыкве абсолютно нет претенциозности. They are absolutely loveble!», – говорит Яёи. Создавая «тыквенные работы», она использовала разные материалы, но именно бронзовая огромная тыква в центре экспозиции Художественного музея Хельсинки – символ вечности, рифмующаяся с названием выставки – In Infinity («В бесконечности»).

Выставка Яёи Кусама в Художественном музее Хельсинки продлится до 22 января 2017. На первом этаже музея создан отдельный интерактивный проект, в котором может поучаствовать любой прохожий, наклеив свою личную горошину на предмет интерьера. Видео, письма, и полуторачасовой документальный фильм о Яёи Кусама также расположены в пространстве со свободным входом.

Katia S.

Yayoi Kusama, anno 1929, è una delle più importanti artisti contemporanee viventi. Attraverso il ”Nordic tour In –Infinity” in mostra prima al Louisiana Museum di Copenaghen, poi al Moderna Museum di Stoccolma. Ora é il momento della capitale finlandese invita alla conoscenza della storia di questa formidabile artista d´avant-guarde presso il museo HAM di Helsinki.


Kusama è un´ artista dalle molte sfaccettature; la sua arte non si può definire né attraverso un movimento specifico, né attraverso uno stile o un genere preciso. La si riconosce dai suoi caratteristici puntini, i “Polka dots” e da elementi ripetitivi: uno stile, comunque, in continuo sviluppo e cambiamento. Non solo pittrice, è un´artista visiva a 360 gradi, poetessa e performer.

Dovendo convivere fin dall´infanzia, con una malattia che le porta ad avere molte allucinazioni, ha trovato nell´arte il suo elisir di salvezza e di lunga vita.

La mia esperienza nel museo è stata molto soddisfacente, grazie alla possibilità di intervistare la curatrice Claire Gould e la conservatrice italiana Barbara Radaelli-Muronen.

La mostra narra i vari passaggi artistici e di vita dell´anziana artista.

Claire mi ha raccontato quanto rilevante sia mostrare al pubblico la storia dell´artista attraverso la mostra, partendo da quando era giovane e in contrasto con la famiglia, al suo approdo negli Stati Uniti nel periodo “boom” dell´arte contemporanea, e al suo ritorno in Giappone.


“Amo la sezione dei suoi primi schizzi, dei suoi primi lavori, perché credo che entrambi diano una grande rilevanza e comprensione riguardo a chi sia e dove sia ora” precisa Claire

Il museo inizia da uno spazio comune, aperto e gratuito a tutti. Una stanza fatta da mobili vecchi, tutta pitturata di bianco; è tutta ricoperta da pallini colorati, i quali come ho detto precedentemente, sono un elemento che caratterizza le opere di Yayoi.

I visitatori hanno la possibilità di attaccare loro stessi i pallini e scegliere dove posizionarli.

Come se quella stanza fosse un universo, ognuno è libero di trovare il suo punto dove ritiene opportuno. Tramite quest´opera, Yayoi accoglie tutti nel suo mondo e questo senso di benvenuto lo si percepisce quando, salendo le scale del museo, la prima cosa che si nota è una bambola a grandezza naturale dell´artista che osserva il visitatore.

Oggigiorno, per sua scelta, l´artista vive in un ospedale psichiatrico a Seiwa, in Giappone, dove passa l´intera giornata a disegnare e a dipingere.

Il suo amore per la pittura, infatti la porta a spendere gran parte del suo tempo a dipingere. E, con grandissima precisione, Yayoi realizza i suoi lavori. Infatti, la meticolosità nei dettagli è una caratteristica che l´ha accompagnata fin da bambina, dai primi disegni riguardanti la natura esposti al museo.

“I suoi primi lavori sono un buon esempio che dimostrano quanto meticolosa era nell´osservare la natura, successivamente, ha fatto un passo oltre, ha astratto le cose, e creato il suo linguaggio” evidenzia Claire.

Ci sono 3 stanze nel museo che mi hanno particolarmente colpito: “Mirror room in Infinity”, “Mirror Room (Pumpkin)” e Hymn of Life” create in 3 periodi diversi.

Tutte hanno la caratteristica di essere composte da specchi e di offrire al visitatore una sensazione di infinito e di allucinazioni.

Claire specifica:

“Anche se, in un modo, Yayoi cerca di ricreare la sensazione di allucinazioni attraverso queste stanze, le persone non necessariamente rimangono allucinate, ma ricevono gioia e recepiscono, attraverso i loro occhi, un qualcosa che non avevano mai visto prima”

A mio avviso, queste sono le più grandi attrazioni che il museo possa offrire, dandoci una relazione più intima con l´artista; Barbara, conservatrice del museo, sottolinea quanto queste opere che richiedano manutenzione. Per esempio, gli specchi devono essere costantemente puliti, l´acqua di “Hymn of Life” cambiata.

Per avere una conoscenza più approfondita dell´artista, il museo offre la possibilità di vedere il documentario del 2008 “I love me” che, personalmente, ne consiglio la visione.  Mi ha colpito molto quanta importanza Yayoi dia a sé stessa e alle sue opere, definendole le migliori. Un senso di autostima, infatti, è la giusta chiave per aprire le porte del proprio successo.

La signora Kusama è una donna che non solo ha dimostrato quanto l´arte possa essere vita e mezzo di salvezza, ma che ha fatto in modo di accogliere nel suo mondo milioni di visitatori.

“La gente ama conoscere la storia di Kusama, e desidera approfondirla” afferma Claire.

Ed è quello che il museo di arte Moderna di Helsinki è stato capace di realizzare in modo straordinario.

Gloria De Felice

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