Checking out the hype surrounding Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery
Late last week, I read an article on Untapped Cities about the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery. According to its website, the art gallery has been hosting “innovative, singular, and pioneering exhibitions” since 1993 but remained practically unknown to me and most everyone in NYC prior to Yayoi Kusama’s I Who Have Arrived In Heaven exhibit. As a matter of fact, the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea had only 6 Yelp reviews before this recent boost in popularity. Thanks to Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms, the art gallery has had to cope with exceedingly long lines and forewarn people of a 6-hour wait after witnessing persistent lines and a record-breaking attendance during the snowstorm of December 14th.
Such was the hype surrounding these rooms and The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away installation in particular which some have referred to as “prime selfie real estate” on Instagram. Since it was free to get in, I decided it couldn’t hurt to view the exhibit on its last day of showing on Saturday, December 21st. I was warned about the lines but didn’t arrive at the gallery till 4pm, two hours before closing. As previously remarked upon on Yelp, there were two different lines facing separate directions. Both were so horribly disorganized which made it really confusing where to stand. Later on, one of the staff members announced on his very quiet megaphone that the much-longer line facing east was for The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away and had been closed earlier. Supposedly, those people broke the former 6-hour record wait with some of them standing in line since 7AM.
I honestly was not curious about The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away since I’d already had such a great time viewing the Space Needle of Seattle and the Skydeck of Chicago last year. That installation looked to me like a 45-second redux of watching any large city at night. Yes, you had to take off your shoes to stand on the platform of the room that features a shallow reflecting pool as its floor and take as many selfies as you can in 45 seconds. If you’re curious, you can view photos and a video of it here.
Yayoi Kusama’s I Who Have Arrived in Heaven was a multi-part exhibit which spanned all three locations of the gallery in Chelsea (519, 525 and 533 West 19th Street) less than a block from the High Line. Those of us who stood in the westward line were given 60 seconds to go inside the room featured in the photos above. The above explosion of neon colors was called Love Is Calling. I thought it was the neatest part of the entire exhibition. My companion was turned off by the fact that Love Is Calling was made to look like a bouncy castle yet the staff member’s sole directive was that you could not poke, touch, or smack the components of the art installation. I was just happy I didn’t have to stand in line for more than 20 minutes.
Directly outside of that room was a wall-sized video monitor of Yayoi Kusama reciting and singing her poem/song called Manhattan Suicide Addict. Other than the nonsensical nature of the title, I wasn’t particularly moved by the 84-year-old artist’s ramblings.
I did, however, enjoy the kaleidoscopic background. I also suspect I was lured to this David Zwirner exhibition by Yayoi Kusama’s bright red wig and crazy stare. Lastly, we went into the rooms that featured 27 new large-scale paintings by the artist. My companion again had a funny comment on the nature of the paintings being very appropriate for children’s books. My personal thought was that most of them looked inferior to some IKEA rug designs I’ve seen. And so my final photo before leaving the vicinity of the gallery was of this building right across the street. Well I’ll be damned if this didn’t end up looking like the most visually artistic feat of last weekend’s outing. Or perhaps you should never come to me for a critical analysis on the works of an artist I just didn’t get.