Lonely Planet Writer

Yayoi Kusama covers Rockaway Beach in silver this summer

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is having a moment, even if the famed sculptor is 89-years-old. She has been called an Instagram darling, has sold out her in-demand art exhibits and recently opened her own museum in Tokyo last fall.

A visitor takes photo of Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama 1500 stainless steel balls installation titled ‘Narcissus Garden 2017’ during a media preview at National Gallery Singapore on June 6, 2017 in Singapore. Image by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Now, this ‘queen of polka dots’ is going to have the most Instagrammable artwork of the summer with a rarely-seen piece of public art in New York. Starting 1 July, Kusama opens Narcissus Garden, which will be the reason to head to the Rockaway beach this summer in Queens, New York. Over 1500 stainless steel mirrored spheres will line the floors of Fort Tilden, a former army base on the beach, and is being presented by the Museum of Modern Art’s PS1. It will be on view until 3 September.

Yayoi Kusama with Narcissus Garden (1966) installed in Venice Biennale, Italy, 1966 Image by MoMA

This piece was initially created in 1966 and debuted at the Venice Biennale, bearing a sign that read “Your Narcissism for Sale,” which was a bit of a coy comment on consumerism. “I sold the balls from Narcissus Garden at $2 each,” said the artist. “What was most important about Narcissus Garden at Venice was my action of selling the mirror balls on the site, as if I were selling hot dogs or ice cream cones.”

Narcissus Garden, 1966. Image by khanacademy.org

It was a guerrilla artwork that the artist just set up at Italian Pavilion without anyone’s permission; Kusama wore a gold kimono and handed the balls to visitors, engaging in conversation. It became historic for its DIY nature and was a statement on breaking barriers. That is, until the artwork got shut down by authorities.

Gateway National Recreation Area at Fort Tilden, T9 building. Image by Pablo Enriquez/MoMA.

But to the artist, this whopping collection of mirrored balls is not only a pattern of polka dots, but a piece of poetry. “Polka dots are the symbol of the spiritual peace and love,” she says.  “In this universe, the moon, the sun, each and every star, my own life, your life, they are all a single polka dot among billions. I have love and awe towards all these things. I want to send my earnest wish of overcoming conflicts and terrors of the world, the wish of peace for the people.”