"The Obliteration Room," originally commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia, is one of Yayoi Kusama's most ambitious and participatory projects.
Image: Courtesy of Tate photography
Few artists attract as many museum visitors as Yayoi Kusama. The Tate Modern in London can no doubt expect crowds this summer when it hosts one of the artist's famous installations. Visitors will even be able to participate in its creation.
Yayoi Kusama once said that her life was "a dot lost among millions of other dots." This quote will take on particular significance, July 23, when the Tate Modern in London presents "The Obliteration Room" by the Japanese artist. This immersive installation, originally commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia, is one of her most ambitious and participatory projects. It takes the form of an entirely white room, with equally immaculate furniture.
"The Obliteration Room" evolves as visitors enter and exit the installation. Each of them is provided with a sheet of colored dot stickers, allowing them to leave their mark on this initially spotless interior. Its clinical appearance is gradually transformed into a riot of colors. All of this is something of a hallmark for Yayoi Kusama, as the notion of accumulation features heavily in her work, and the polka dot is her preferred motif.
The world's most popular nonagenarian
At the age of 93, Yayoi Kusama is a true star of the contemporary art scene. Institutions such as the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the Museum of Modern Art in Tel Aviv have staged retrospectives in honor of the artist, much to the delight of their visitors.
Thousands flock to see the Japanese artist's installations, where lights and colors are infinitely multiplied. Enthusiasm is such that the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada asked a guard to allow visitors 20 to 30 seconds, stopwatch in hand, in each of the different rooms of the artist's "Infinity Mirrors" exhibition.
Art collectors are showing the same enthusiasm for Yayoi Kusama's works. One piece, entitled "Untitled (Nets)," sold for $10.5 million in May at Phillips -- a record for the avant-garde artist. The second-highest price was for one of her "Interminable Net" works, a painting of white-on-white dots from 1959, which sold for €7 million at Sotheby's in 2019.
This success is all the more astonishing given that Yayoi Kusama has been living as a recluse in a psychiatric clinic in Tokyo since 1977. Her studio is located a few meters from this private institution, and she spends most of her time working. This unusual lifestyle has perhaps contributed to making this nonagenarian one of the most popular and "Instagrammable" artists on the planet.
"The Obliteration Room" by Yayoi Kusama can be seen from July 23 to August 29 at the Tate Modern in London.