A large-scale exhibition by Yayoi Kusama has arrived in New York City at the Chelsea mega-gallery David Zwirner. It features giant pumpkins, towering flowers, trippy paintings, and one of the artist’s famous “Infinity Rooms.” A version of the iconic mirrored space hasn’t been shown in the city since 2021, and visitors at the exhibition’s public opening on Thursday, May 11 did what Manhattanites do all too well — wait in line.

The exhibition is up through July 21, but many Kusama superfans couldn’t wait that long: 200 people won the chance to see the show early via a social media lottery. Last night, a small band of Zwirner staff members accommodated the chaos. Doors opened to the public at 6pm, but eager viewers began arriving at 4pm. Two hours later, hundreds of attendees had formed a queue that stretched from the gallery’s entrance on 19th Street to 11th Avenue, reached across the wide thoroughfare, and ultimately wound around another corner onto 20th Street.

The line outside the gallery’s entrance

“I just love it all,” Isabella Bravo, a New York-based real estate agent, told Hyperallergic. She recently saw the Kusama pop-up at Louis Vuitton in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District (which featured an eerie life-size robot of the artist). She also saw the 2018 Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.

“Fortunately I booked it in advance,” Bravo said of the California show. “The line was the same scenario — it looped around the building and there were a lot of people who couldn’t handle the LA heat.” Bravo was most excited to see the Infinity Room.

Further back in line, Manuela Valencia and Zoraida Echeverri were waiting to see Kusama’s work for the first time. They had arrived in New York two days prior from Bogotá, Colombia.

“A friend of mine showed me a page of stuff to do in New York,” Echeverri, a psychologist, told Hyperallergic. “And it’s free.” She had also seen Kusama’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton.

Ellie, a New Yorker who preferred to go by her first name, arrived around 4pm. She was unfamiliar with Kusama’s work before seeing it two years ago at the New York Botanical Gardens, but the show left her with a strong impression. “As I researched her, I became more and more obsessed,” Ellie said.

Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023), bronze and urethane paint, varying sizes (photo Veken Gueyikian/Hyperallergic)

Inside, the exhibition spans four cavernous rooms. The first showcases the artist’s most recent series of pumpkins, a staple in Kusama’s iconography. Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart (2023) comprises three enormous sculptures. The gigantic fruits tower over their viewers and form a curved series of walls that visitors can walk between.

Yayoi Kusama, “Climbing a Stairway to Heaven; Cloud Colors; Penetrating the Blue of Sky; Suicide in My Heart; Time Noneternal Ends, Right Now!” (2021), acrylic on canvas, 35 7/8 x 28 5/8 inches

The second space holds the Infinity Mirror Room. Titled “Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love” (2023), the work is confined to a stainless steel box with blue, green, red, and orange circular windows. It resembles a blown-up version of some sort of children’s toy. A ground-level window reveals itself to be a door, and a guard ushers visitors inside. They crouch through the tiny opening and are then given two minutes to spend in the space. The interior is speckled with Kusama’s signature dots. True to its name, the mirrors make the space feel infinite.

The gallery behind the Infinity Room is easy to miss, but here Kusama’s mastery of optical illusion is on full display. Thirty-six paintings collectively titled EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE (2021–2023) line the white walls. They feature dots, smiley faces, and the mind-boggling impression that they are concave. Kusama has painted large circles in many of the canvases’ centers that appear to sink inwards.

The final room showcases three enormous sculptures that share the exhibition’s name, I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers (2023). Like the pumpkins, these vast works are larger than the viewers in the room.

Yayoi Kusama, I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers (2023), stainless steel and urethane paint, varying sizes

The entire show is remarkably Instagram-able. An iPhone camera captures impeccable selfies in the infinity room and perfectly-lit photos of the paintings. Visitors pose between the over-size sculptures and take pictures of themselves in the works’ shiny surfaces. The work is always being captured in some way. In light of Kusama’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton — which churns out handbags, shirts, and neckties emblazoned with the artist’s iconography — Hindley Wang penned an opinion piece for Hyperallergic reflecting on the commodification of not only Kusama’s work, but also of the artist.

David Zwirner is among the bluest of blue-chip galleries, and not exactly a place known for its inclusivity. The Kusama exhibition is free — like all gallery shows — but it’s worth remembering that rarely do people outside of wealthy circles or the so-called “art world” even consider walking into an art gallery.

“It was definitely worth it,” Grayson Willis, a New Yorker working on a Master’s degree in contemporary art, told Hyperallergic. She was more familiar with the artist’s work than some of the other visitors: Willis said she had traveled all over the world to see Kusama exhibitions. “To see such a large show in New York was a dream.”

The line on Eleventh Avenue
Kusama’s acrylic-on-canvas series EVERYDAY I PRAY FOR LOVE (2021–2023)
Yayoi Kusama, “Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love” (2023), wood, stainless steel, aluminum, tile, acrylic, metal, and paint, 158 3/4 x 201 1/8 x 201 1/8 inches
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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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  1. We saw her at the Rubell in Miami and LAST WEEK, in Istanbul at a new and exciting museum, MOCO, which is situated between Van Gogh and Rieksmuseum (where we saw Vermeer). How lucky are we. Wish you all could share our love for art and have the mean and ability to see these things. We are in our mid 70s. Not much time for art left

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