Grab your mobiles and hit up the “best Instagram exhibit” of the year.

Famed artist Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective exhibition hits DC this weekend at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, and it’s sure to cause a stir. The artist, who is known for her extensive use of nudity, phallic sculptures and – you guessed it – polka dots has seen a dramatic rise in her status in recent years which has culminated into the kick off of her North American tour — the first in almost two decades.

Kusama was born in Matsuomto, Nagano in the Chūbu region of Japan in 1929. During her formative years she studied Nihonga painting at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts but became exasperated over the traditional style and moved on to the avant-garde shortly after. She staged several solo exhibitions in the area before eventually moving to New York City in 1958.

yayoiDuring this time period she both influenced and exhibited alongside pop art, minimalist and abstract expressionist heavyweights such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. He exhibits moved abroad and were widely held in Europe with her fame reaching significant proportions during her antiwar statements and works which often involved nudity. Due to struggles with mental illness, she returned to Japan in 1973 and has since resided in the area.

The Hirshhorn’s “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” is on view from Feb. 23, 2017, to May 14, 2017, and is the first to encompass five decades of the artist’s prolific work and thematic transitions. It includes six of her most “iconic kaleidoscopic environments” as well as two large-scale installations, several paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the 1950s to the present.

When speaking about the artist and her impact, Hirshorn’s director Melissa Chiu said, “Yayoi Kusama is among the most influential artists alive today…a worldwide phenomenon, she has created a vast oeuvre that defies traditional classification, and we are honored to present the first survey of her Infinity Mirror Rooms.”

The various thematic elements entwined within these works are as vast, encompassing issues surrounding identity, isolation, obsession, life and death, utopia/dystopia, nature and fantasy.

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It also includes “Love Forever” (1966/1995) a mirrored room of lights, “Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots” (2009), a multimedia installation piece with several suspended polka dot inflatables in a mirrored room, “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” (2009) and “Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” (2013).

The artist’s LED environments are perhaps some of her more publicly notable works which include mirrored rooms filled with suspended lanterns or crystalline balls, encompassing the viewer in a dark, surreal and magical environment.

Yayoi Kusama, “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity”, 2009.

Last, but certainly not least, the exhibition is concluded with Kusama’s famed “The Obliteration Room” (2002), a white-washed domestic setting exploding with color and frenzy due to the thousands of multi-colored polka dots strewn across.

The exhibition is slated to last 14 weeks and is sure to leave the viewer amazed, delighted and filled with sensory overload and a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the world-renowned artist’s mind and illness.

Yayoi Kusama, “The Obliteration Room”, 2009.


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