Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

To Infinity and Beyond: Yayoi Kusama’s Festival of Life at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City



Why on earth would a nocturnal creature such as myself wake up at an uncivilized hour on a frigidly cold Saturday morning in November just to stand on line for nearly two hours–and not just any line but a discouragingly gargantuan queue that appeared to stretch into infinity? A fair question. And the answer is quite simple: when you have the opportunity to see recent works from an artist of Yayoi Kusama’s caliber, whose contributions have been essential to some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th Century, you dig deep. You pull on your big boy pants and wrap yourself in a puffer jacket. You fill a thermos with strong coffee. And you get moving.

“I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland.”
-Yayoi Kusama

Is it any wonder that we’re fans?

Festival of Life, currently on display at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, features three installations and a series of paintings. All contain a familiar aesthetic that runs through much of Kusama’s oeuvre: the obsessive repetition of patterns or objects with the aim of challenging the notion of physical, emotional, and intellectual boundaries in art and life.



Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There are two Infinity Mirror Rooms included in this exhibition. “Longing For Eternity” invites the viewer to look through three apertures into a module containing a hexagonally patterned mirror with color-changing bulbs. “Let’s Survive Forever” is a mirrored room jammed full of reflective stainless steel balls. In a third adjacent room, the sculpture-installation “With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever” contains an environment of oversized flower-potted tulips in fiberglass-reinforced plastic, which incorporates the floor, ceiling, and walls. Finally, in the last section of the gallery (accessible next door), there are 66 double-hung acrylic on canvas paintings from Kusama’s “My Eternal Soul” series.

To say that Kusama’s work is an immersive experience is a gross understatement; it’s closer to an assimilated experience. You walk into a room and find yourself overwhelmed by the color, patterns, and in some works, reflections. And suddenly, you become a part of the installation. For Kusama, perhaps the goal has always been to integrate (or, as she likes to say, “obliterate”) the audience as much as her subjects.



Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Regardless of the long lines and wait times, Festival of Life is a must-see exhibition from a seminal artist still at the top of her game while in the twilight of her life.

If you’re interested in taking in the exhibit, here are some survival tips:

Get there early! Wait times can run between 2 and 4 hours. The wait will get longer as the day goes, so going early might be your best play. The line will close ahead of the gallery closing so don’t come late. You can follow David Zwirner on Twitter for line updates and closings.

Dress appropriately! You’ll be exposed to the elements.

Go with a friend who can hold the line. Or make friends with the people in line with you. There are no restrooms at the gallery.

Plan your shots in advance. The Infinity Mirror Rooms have strictly enforced time limits; 1 minute for “Let’s Survive Forever” and 30 seconds for “Longing For Eternity”.

Bring rations. The smart people in line were eating breakfast sandwiches and donuts while the rest of us drooled.

Festival of Life is free of charge and open to the public. It will be on display through December 16, 2017.

Location:
525 & 533 W 19th St

Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm
Closed on Thursday, November 23 for Thanksgiving



Pair it with:

Brunch at Empire Diner

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life David Zwirner New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Waiting in line makes you hangry. Okay, waiting in line makes me hangry. So after we oohed and aahed at some incredible art, we sought out some much-needed sustenance. If you find yourself in the same position, nearby Empire Diner is an excellent choice to meet that need. Empire Diner, with its iconic Art Moderne exterior, has been a West Chelsea neighborhood staple since the mid-70’s and is one of the last freestanding diners in New York City.

In its storied history, the diner’s interior has gone through as many iterations as owners (and that’s a lot), but somehow the landmark has stood the test of time. Although the current interior aesthetic has a more bright, modern feel, with pale-colored wood and white tiles, it still very much embodies a classic diner with plenty of glass and vintage stainless steel touches. The offerings are decidedly straightforward American with occasional twists that are more a reflection of creative detailing than broad brush strokes. Whether it’s the Double Patty Burger with American Cheese and herbed french fries, Rye Pancakes, or Soft Scramble Eggs Cacio e Pepe, Empire Diner is certainly more silver spoon than greasy spoon, but it still gets the job done.

Location:
210 10th Ave

Hours:
Monday – Saturday 8 am – 1 am

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– J.

 

 

16 thoughts on “To Infinity and Beyond: Yayoi Kusama’s Festival of Life at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City”

  1. Love this! I’m hoping to go within the next week — so excited! PS: Her museum opened in Tokyo while we were there in October, but we didn’t find out about it until we were in Japan. Oh well – another excuse to visit Japan again 😉

    1. Thanks, Julianne! I think you’ll really enjoy it, just so long as you go early and are prepared for the queue. It’s regrettable you missed the chance to visit her museum, but I can relate to the zen attitude that it’s just another reason to visit again.

  2. Thank you for sharing this and for the warning of long lines and no restrooms. This is something we would surely enjoy. Would not have expected the long lines. Nice pics!

    1. Thanks, JAM! Actually, it surprised me to discover that long lines are typical for Kusama exhibitions, especially when Infinity Mirrors and environment style installations come into play.

    1. And you should go! But I can’t disagree with your comment on the closing time. Extended hours might reduce the incredible line that forms as a consequence of the wait times and excessive demand. It’s NYC, though, and as you know, it’s kinda part of the game.

  3. You guys are to be commended for braving the line – and without treats! – but it look slike it was worth it. When I was stuck in Phoenix earlier this year I spent time at the Phoenix Museum of Art, and experienced one of her installations. On permanent view there, it is magical. And no lines because Phoenix isn’t exactly an art mecca – hey, it may be worth a trip! I’m glad she’s having another moment here in the US. And hooray for the Empire Diner, long may she feed the hoards of hungry souls. (Have you been to La Colombe on W 27th St? I had a great macchiato & little eggplant pastry there. Wondered if you’ve tried it).
    Kusama in AZ:
    https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/fireflies-the-yayoi-kusama-infinity-room

    1. Hi Lynn! That’s a great recommendation. We know PMOA very well, and if we are ever back in that area, we’ll definitely make that a diversion. As for La Colombe, we’ve dropped by that location (they have a number) at least once. They make solid traditional espresso drinks, but we particularly like their Draft Lattes during the summer months.

  4. Words cannot describe how much I love this post – seriously, it’s one of my favorites. I love the way you discuss the art and the overall recurring themes in Kusama’s work – your writing is informative without being stuffy, fun yet intelligent – I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed reading this! I am now tempted to switch up my weekend plans – what time exactly did you guys get in line for the gallery on Saturday? And do you think it would be better to go on a weekday if possible? Am thinking this could be a cool place to take my Italian friend!

    1. You make me blush, Lauren. I take that as a huge compliment. As for your weekend plans, here’s the scoop on how it worked out for us: we arrived at 9:15 AM–later than we had intended. The doors opened at 10:00 AM. All told, we were in line for 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you go, have your friend walk to the nearby High Line Hotel while you hold line. It’s on 10th Ave between 20th and 21st streets. Coffee and pastries can be procured there. They have an Intelligentsia Coffee Bar inside (and a cute little truck outside in the courtyard). They also usually serve Ma-Ze-Dahr baked goods and (sometimes) Underwest Donuts.
      http://thehighlinehotel.com/intelligentsia/

  5. What a beautiful exhibit, yuck on the early morning- I feel you! I would be stressed with the time frames for photos, I take so many photos. I love your tips, I would definitely pack snacks:)

    1. Hi Cathy! I felt the same way about the time limits. When they opened the door to the first Mirror Room, I was desperately trying to figure out how to frame the shots I would take. On top of that, they allow in about 5 people at a time, so you have to work around that, too. We have one shot that was taken right outside the door when the room was empty and we were being yelled at for hesitating. The rest are a little easier to frame because you can see into those rooms from a distance while you wait for entry into the first. That way you can at least formulate a plan before heading into those rooms.

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