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Kusama’s opening night at the TA Art Museum transports viewers back to childhood

I was one of the lucky ones invited to the opening night of Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art last week, which brought together works of art spanning 80 years.

Kusama is known for her use of dense patterns of polka dots and nets, as well as for her intense, large-scale environments.

Classified as one of the best and biggest art exhibitions of 2021, I was so excited to hear it is coming to Israel since I last saw Kusama art two years ago on the southern Japanese island of Naoshima.

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Tourism has ceased entirely since the pandemic and entry into the Land of the Rising Sun remains a challenge.

“The public is thirsting for exciting quality experiences, especially now in the aftermath of COVID-19 with all its troubles,” said Tania Coen-Uzzielli, director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Yayoi Kusama in a photo by Yusuke Miyazaki (Image: YAYOI KUSAMA OTA FINE ARTS VICTORIA MIRO DAVID ZWIRNER)

Kusama has worked with numerous media such as painting, collage, sculpture, video, performance, installation, fashion, literature and music and created two new monuments that have been created especially for the current exhibition.

And actually, when I entered the museum, I could feel the anticipation.

It wasn’t a normal night – Yayoi Kusama is one of the most creative and important artists of our time.

Food and drink were abundant, and excited guests held their glasses as they talked about the countries where they had last seen Kusama’s works. Then Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Japanese Ambassador Koichi Mizushima introduced the people who had worked behind the scenes to make the event happen and officially opened the exhibition.

And then the fun began. People strolled through the big museum, taking selfies and filming videos (she’s the most tagged artist on social media, after all), observing the obsessive patterns of dots and nets that cover surfaces with incessant repetition and the boundaries between figure and surroundings blurred. It felt like a big adults-only amusement park.

Kusama tells the story of how she had a hallucination as a little girl that freaked her out. She was in a flower meadow when everyone started talking to her. The flower heads were like dots that continued as far as she could see, and it felt like they were disappearing or, as she calls it, “self-extinguishing” – into this field of endless dots. This strange experience influenced most of her later works. By adding marks and dots to her paintings, drawings, objects, and clothing, she feels like she (and herself) merge with and become part of the larger universe.

As I walked through the long (and extremely colorful) corridors, I felt that something at these points was returning people to a childlike state, the bright colors and the size of the monuments are definitely reminiscent of something surreal from my childhood, something naive and Happy and secure.

I can’t help but wonder, is that Kusama’s secret?

It reminds us all that deep down we’re just kids who want to have fun.

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