Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Narcissus Garden’ Is Great for Selfies and Reminds You You’re an Egomaniac
The most popular artist in the world brought her magic to the eroded NYC coast.
Photos by Tayler Smith
Thousands of selfie-hungry art fiends will spill into to a former train garage in Fort Tilden on Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY this summer to snap pictures of 1,500 mirrored balls meticulously arranged throughout the space. The juxtaposition of pristine stainless steel and architecture decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 has been carefully orchestrated by Yayoi Kusama, who pioneered the infinity room and is arguably the most popular visual artist in the world.
The installation is a new version of her famous Narcissus Garden, which has traveled all over the world since she first presented it at the 1966 Venice Biennale. She worked with director Klaus Biesenbach to engineer the latest version for Rockaway!, MoMA PS1’s annual summer celebration of photogenic, monumental art devoted to rejuvenating the area. It's a collaborative effort between the museum, Rockaway Artists Alliance, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
While today Kusama’s work is popularly associated with Instagram thirst, she was known for pissing off the public with racy public performances and happenings in mid century New York. She ran with rebels like Andy Warhol and Donald Judd, and frequently appeared in the New York Post for stunts like her 1969 (nice) Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead, in which naked, body painted performers fucked sculptures in the Museum of Modern Art’s Rockefeller Garden. Narcissus Garden provoked the Venice Biennale organizers because Kusama offered to sell the then-plastic orbs for $2 a pop “as if [she] were selling hot dogs.” Signs planted in the garden read, “Your Narcissism for Sale.”
Ironically, her work now attracts hordes of self-promoters who have bought into the self-centeredness she was critiquing at the time. A winter exhibit of her paintings and infinity rooms at David Zwirner’s Chelsea galleries spawned four-hour lines. Visitors were allowed about 60 seconds in each infinity room.
The Rockaway Narcissus Garden, a simple ferry ride away from Pier 11 in lower Manhattan, will be packed with art appreciators and amateur influencers alike this summer. We sent photographer Tayler Smith in to capture the vibe before it's packed out with tourists and 'gram hounds. Check out the installation in the images below.
Watch: Children Review Yayoi Kusama at the Museum of Modern Art
Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden will be open to the public from noon to 6 PM from July 1 through September 3. Get more information on the official website.
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