Lonely Planet Writer

Yayoi Kusama will take over the New York Botanical Garden next year

She’s known for brightly-colored, otherworldly pieces like giant pumpkin sculptures and Lite-Brite-on-steroids-style infinity rooms, and come spring, she’ll be operating on an even grander scale. 

Yayoi Kusama with polka dot art
Yayoi Kusama is bringing her distinctive style to the New York Botanical Garden next spring. Image by Jose-Fuste RAGA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

From 2 May through 1 November, the highly-acclaimed—and heavily-Instagrammed—artist Yayoi Kusama will take over the New York Botanical Garden for an exhibition examining her lifelong fascination with nature. Her signature paintings, mirrored spaces, and huge organic sculptures will cover the garden’s 250-acre grounds inside and out, along with a study of her early work (think: botanical sketches, biomorphic collages, and soft sculpture), a horticultural showcase based on one of her paintings, and perhaps best of all, a participatory greenhouse that will grow and change throughout the six-month exhibition. 

Kusama pumpkin on Naoshima Art island in Japan
Kusama has drawn inspiration from nature her whole life (see: this giant pumpkin sculpture on Japan’s Naoshima Art island), and the NYBG exhibit will be the first large-scale exploration of that connection. Image by Kenneth Dedeu/Shutterstock

“In a lifetime of finding inspiration in nature and pushing against boundaries and biases, [Kusama] developed a unique lexicon for artistic expression,” said Carrie Rebora Barratt, Ph.D., CEO and the William C. Steere Sr. president of the New York Botanical Garden, in the news release announcing the event. “While these works appear as mostly abstract forms to viewers, they are manifestations of how she sees the universe, specifically the natural world.” 

Kusama’s body of work includes experiential exhibit rooms like this one, titled ‘The Spirits of Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens.’ Image by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Can’t wait until next year to catch a glimpse of the artist’s work? Good news: this November, ahead of the botanic-garden show, Kusama will return to New York for another stint with David Zwirner. She last partnered with the venerable Chelsea gallery in 2017, when, as Artnet reported, some 75,000 people turned out over the course of the dual-location, 45-day show, often waiting up to six hours to get inside. This time around, Kusama will be displaying paintings, sculptures, and an immersive installation at the 20th Street gallery, as well as debuting a new mirrored infinity room—and the crowds are sure to follow. 

But if jostling with the masses doesn’t sound appealing, there’s always Boston. In January, the Institute of Contemporary Art announced the acquisition of “Love Is Calling,” an immersive experience in a mirrored room rife with polka-dotted, oversized tentacles. It opens to the public this fall—just in time to make a Northeast adventure out of it.