The new Yayoi Kusama show at SFMOMA, featuring the celebrated Japanese artist’s famous immersive mirror rooms, is the first solo exhibition of her work in Northern California.
You might have had the chance to see Kusama’s work at another museum (some pieces have recently been in New York and Los Angeles), or you might’ve seen them on Instagram (her recognizable mirror rooms are viral at this point), but this is her first solo exhibit in Northern California.
The exhibit, Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love, opens to the public on October 14, 2023, and will run through September 7, 2024 — an SFMOMA member preview is ongoing. It shows two of Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Rooms” in a separate wing that you’ll need tickets for, and one of her sculptures, which is viewable on the fifth floor for all visitors.
If you want the full Yayoi Kusama experience, the "Infinity Mirror Rooms" are worth it. The museum installed the two rooms (about 15 feet by 15 feet) in a cordoned-off section with all-white walls, and will only let six people in at a time. When it’s your turn to enter the darkened mirror rooms (for two minutes each), you’re surrounded by your own reflection amid dreamlike repetitions of bright shapes and patterns, including Kusama’s signature polka dots.
As Kusama said of the motif, “Dots are symbols of the world, the cosmos. The Earth is a dot, the moon, sun, the stars are all made up of dots. You and me, we are dots.”
In the first room, “Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love (2023),” outside light streams through several bold-colored windows, and you feel like you’re inside a kaleidoscope of transparent plastic bingo chips. The second, “LOVE IS CALLING (2013),” is filled with dotted, color-changing neon tentacles, creating a surreal octopus garden. I felt like I was stepping into another dimension, and just as I got adjusted to feeling like I was floating in the explosion of stimulation, my two minutes were up.
Her other sculpture, “Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023),” is a massive psychedelic pumpkin also covered in dots. The work deals with themes of mental health and self-obliteration — Kusama has never shied away from making art about her personal struggles (and as a way to cope). The sheer scale is impressive, and the colors and patterns turn into an optical illusion if you look for long enough.
And, of course, it’s all very Instagrammable. Kusama was a pioneer in creating eye-popping intimate environments in which the spectator becomes part of the spectacle since she created her first mirrored room environment in 1965 (she’s 94 years old, after all). She’s made over 20 since then, according to the LA Times.
Expect to wait in line for your turn to experience the art, but you won’t regret it. This exhibit explores the infinite possibilities of the human imagination. Don't miss this opportunity to immerse yourself (and Instagram yourself) in Kusama's world.
Tickets for the exhibit are on sale now, but they're currently sold out through the end of October. More tickets will be released on a monthly basis and will be available for purchase online. (Members get early access to reserve tickets on the first Tuesday of every month, two days before the General Public.) A limited number of same-day tickets will be available on-site on a first-come, first-served basis. Advance tickets are not available for purchase on-site.
Feature image of Yayoi Kusama, Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love, 2023, installed in the exhibition Yayoi Kusama: I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers, David Zwirner, New York, May 11—July 21, 2023 ©YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy the artist, Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner