Courtesy Dallas Museum of Art
Kusama created her first infinity mirror room, Phalli’s Field, in 1965. Since then, hundreds of thousands of visitors have set foot inside her immersive art pieces.
Walking into one is like stepping into a kaleidoscope. You’ll see yourself reflected over and over and over again alongside an endlessly repeating design, the art becoming all-encompassing. “This idea of infinite expanding space … ties into the idea that the human being is subsumed into this larger field,” says Michael Vetter, assistant curator of contemporary art at Newfields.
The polka dots are a Kusama signature. From childhood, the Japanese artist suffered from hallucinations, imagining that infinite dots would overwhelm her and eventually swallow her whole. She realized she could relieve the visions by drawing polka dots onto an object, thus “obliterating” it—it would appear to fade away, tricking the viewer’s eyes into believing that the pattern goes on forever.
She’s an unlikely darling of the contemporary-arts scene. The reclusive artist, 90, checked herself into a Tokyo mental institution for her hallucinations in 1977 and has been living there ever since. She still regularly walks to work in her nearby studio, where she creates art that has taken social media by storm. New Kusama fans are posting mesmerizing pics and clamoring to see her Infinity Mirror Rooms in person. “She was known among art people,” says Vetter, “but it wasn’t really until Instagram came around that suddenly she became this phenomenon on a whole new level.” Given that Kusama’s work “begs to be photographed,” Vetter hopes younger crowds will turn up in droves to capture the room’s exquisite images.
“[Yayoi Kusama is] still super active and prolific,” says Michael Vetter of Newfields. “She says this is her last phase of life, so she wants to do as much as she can.”
Even celebs are awestruck by these rooms. After seeing Perry’s post from within one, British singer Adele was inspired to shoot a small music video inside L.A.’s resident Infinity Mirror Room. She premiered the video during a performance at the BRIT Awards in 2016. “I definitely feel like standing in that room for an hour, I saw things in myself and of myself I haven’t noticed before,” the pop artist said in an interview.
Now Indy gets to see what the fuss is about. In 2017, a Kusama show toured North America for the first time in 20 years. One of the rooms, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016), found a permanent home at the Dallas Museum of Art—and Newfields swooped in to arrange to borrow it. “It was seen as an experimental exhibition to test out new kinds of art, with the hope that we can get big traction on Instagram and everywhere else Kusama is so well known,” says Vetter. Newfields’s exhibit, Infinitely Kusama, premieres October 4 and runs through March 2020.
Don’t just show up and expect to waltz in. The Kusama exhibit is included with the price of standard Newfields admission, but you’ll want to order a time ticket online before your visit. If you don’t, you can always try your luck fighting the potential throngs at the museum.
Make the most of your 45 seconds. To keep the crowd moving, that’s how long each person gets to stand in the room.
Kusama has been doing this since it was downright revolutionary. If the rooms sound weird now, imagine when the first one debuted 54 years ago. “She’s still super active and prolific,” says Vetter. “She says this is her last phase of life, so she wants to do as much as she can.”