For Kusama, pumpkins represent a source of radiant energy and are one of her most beloved motifs. [Image: Jaichung Lee]

To Infinity & Beyond: Yayoi Kusama’s Breathtaking Art Exhibition in Washington, DC


Legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition is now at The Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. From February 23 to May 14, 2017, the exhibition celebrates Yayoi Kusama’s sixty five-year career, explores life, death, and the infinite, and provides a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic museum experience. It is the most popular exhibition that the museum – and possibly the entire city — has ever seen. Every Monday at noon, the Hirshhorn releases a limited number of free timed passes online. The first three batches were sold out within a minute of being released, as more than 58,000 requests were processed. Additionally, the exhibition is popular on social media. Kusama’s name has been hashtagged nearly 300,000 times on Instagram and thousands of selfies are posted on Snapchat.

Visitors will have the unprecedented opportunity to discover six of Kusama’s breathtaking infinity mirror rooms illuminated by LED lights — the most ever shown together in the US. This exhibition ranges from peep-show-like chambers to multimedia installations, and each of the kaleidoscopic environments offers the audience a chance to step into an illusion of infinite space. The rooms also provide an opportunity to examine the artist’s central themes, such as the celebration of life and its aftermath.

This is not the first time that Kusama’s exhibitions have been held in the US. The David Zwirner gallery exhibition in New York in 2015, and an infinity mirror room at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles in 2013 both resulted in intense publicity. Celebrities like Katy Perry, Nicole Richie, and Minka Kelly took selfies in the mirror room, and Adele even filmed a performance in the Broad Museum exhibition.

Washington, DC is known for arts and culture. The Smithsonian Institution has two museums of Asian art: the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which both house premier collections of Asian art. The Sackler is currently home to Chinese art exhibitions such as Chinamania and Xu Bing: Monkeys Grasp for the Moon, and South Asian art exhibitions such as Sculpture of South Asia and the Himalayas.

Happy 88th birthday to the avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama!

Xiaoyi Wang is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C. and a graduate student at Georgetown University.