Thank you, David Zwirner
Ever since I learned about Yayoi and started researching and looking at her art, of course, I've wanted to see one of her exhibitions in person. I was actually planning on visiting her museum in Tokyo, which she newly opened this October, when I was in Korea this winter but it turns out tickets are sold out– until February. In fact, the timeframe to buy tickets are on the first day of the month 2 months beforehand!
Her popularity really has skyrocketed within the last few years. I really believe a huge part of it is due to Instagram, since the aesthetics of her installations are so social media friendly. This is great for her, but not so great for the people who want to see her work in real life. Especially the people who go to school in rural Massachusetts where her exhibits do not go. That's why I was so stoked when I heard that David Zwirner was holding exhibits of her work in New York! Driving distance!
We visited the Chelsea gallery that hosted the "Festival of Life" exhibition. The wait was over 3 hours outside in the New York cold, but entry was free, and I had bagels to keep me content for the wait. Because it was a private gallery, the space was not very big. As soon as we parted the great big line outside and were granted entry, we were ushered to another line of people waiting to enter the first infinity mirror room, called "LET'S SURVIVE FOREVER". They counted you off in groups of roughly 5 or 6 and you were allowed literally 1 minute in each room. As in the monitor literally had a stopwatch on her.
As soon as I stepped in, it was a battle between wanting to sit and contemplate art and just stare off into the void forever and frantically rushing to get pictures so I could document the moment. Ah, that darned millennial instinct. But also research, right?!
Here is what the first infinity mirror room looked one. This was a physical space that you actually stepped into.
The next "room", called so by the staff there, was actually the one where you peer into peepholes and see a mirrored, lit space, like the picture below (titled "LONGING FOR ETERNITY"). The colors would flash and change periodically. I wonder what the experience would've been if this was something you could physically step into as well. Now that would be trippy.
The final "room" portion was her Tulip room, called "With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever". You had to put on protective coverings over your shoes for this part but you were allowed to stay for longer than one minute. It was great! It reminded me of a part in her autobiography where she talked about seeing patterns on the tablecloth spreading everywhere, to the walls, the ceiling, the floor.
And lastly, her recent paintings and sculptures were in another part of the gallery, with a separate entrance, and you could enter there with no line. There were no time restrictions either. I very much enjoyed this change of pace and I wish I could've had the time to really look at her immersive work with the same care, but understandably, most people were only interested in the infinity rooms and therefore the line had to keep moving. The thing that struck me the most was the scale of these paintings– I had no idea they were this big! Each canvas was probably as tall as I was. That made them so much more impressive, for some reason. Maybe it put into context just how meticulous and patient she is in creating her works. These things had to take a whole lot of time and focus.
Overall, I'm so glad I had the chance to see her works in person. I hope there are more opportunities in the future, and hopefully ones where I will have more breathing room to really take in her art work. Despite the frenzy, I still left extremely inspired and rejuvenated. What a queen.