Three years after a blockbuster display at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA), another local art museum is putting on a Yayoi Kusama exhibit — and this one is supposedly even bigger and better.
The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) will open "Yayoi Kusama: Love Is Calling" on Thursday, March 9. The museum says the installation will be "the largest and the most immersive and kaleidoscopic of the artist's Infinity Mirror Rooms."
For those not aware of the mega-popular Japanese artist, 93-year-old Kusama specializes in "immersive" installations such as the mirrored Infinity Rooms, which place lights, sculptures, and the artist's signature polka dots in a room where the walls are covered in mirrors, creating an optical illusion that turns the display into an infinite landscape. She was an underappreciated fixture of the New York City art scene in the 1960s before returning to Japan to enter an art therapy program at a Tokyo mental hospital to treat hallucinations. She's created art continuously since the 1970s, venturing to a studio during the day and returning home to the hospital at night.
"Love Is Calling" will feature many of the artist's preoccupations in a single, colossal artwork. Soft, tentacle-like sculptures will be placed throughout the space, while visitors will hear the artist's voice as she recites a love poem titled "Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears" over a PA system.
Kusama's history in Miami is somewhat curious. Three of her works, including two Infinity Rooms, have been on semi-permanent display at the Rubell Museum since 2020. (Full disclosure: I'm a former staff member at the Rubell Museum.) The 2019 ICA show, which featured her Infinity Room "All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins," was thrown into controversy when a lawsuit related to the work's ownership set off the Inigo Philbrick scandal. In 2022, Philbrick, a London- and Miami-based art dealer, was convicted on fraud charges after it was revealed he had falsified documents while conducting sales. Philbrick provided space down the street from the museum's Design District location to show the work.
Thanks to apps like Instagram, Kusama, currently the subject of a massive retrospective at the M+ Museum in Hong Kong, has gained extraordinary popularity in the last decade and is considered one of the most successful artists alive. For instance, a recent exhibition at Tate Modern in London completely sold out. Due to high demand and the relatively short exhibition period (the show closed in January 2020 after opening in October 2019), the usually free ICA charged $15 for 60 seconds inside the room. Thankfully, PAMM's Infinity Mirror Room will be around for much longer and will not leave the museum until 2024. While the museum's experience will be included in the cost of admission, a reservation will be required.
"Immersive art" seems to be a recent fascination for PAMM. Two recent shows at the bayside institution feature walk-through installations, including a massive exhibit on Leandro Erlich's surrealist optical illusions and Carlos Cruz-Diaz's colorful "Chromosaturation."
Yayoi Kusama's "Love Is Calling." Opens Thursday, March 9, at Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; 305-375-3000; pamm.org. Ticket prices TBA.