Mirror rooms, pumpkins and polka dots: inside Yayoi Kusama's Shanghai exhibition

A collection of works from the ‘The Polka Dot Queen’ are now on exhibit at Fosun Foundation

Photograph: Yayaoi Kusama, courtesy Fosun Foundation 
Everyone has a favourite Kusama – whether it’s larger-than-life pumpkins, transcendent mirror rooms, or her most famous motif, polka dots – and now we’ve got the chance to see them all (for real) in Shanghai. A collection of works from Japan’s most treasured contemporary artist, 89-year-old Yayoi Kusama – aka ‘The Polka Dot Queen’ – are now on exhibit at Fosun Foundation through June 9.

Photograph: Yayaoi Kusama, courtesy Fosun Foundation
This isn’t the first time that Kusama’s works have gone on display in Shanghai. In fact, when Kusama: A Dream I Dreamed came to the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MoCA) in June 2013, it was so popular that you literally had 15 seconds to put your head in the Infinity Mirror Room. And Kusama seems ready to have her works on display once again in Shanghai. ‘[I hear] the art scene in Shanghai is exciting and the audiences are enthusiastic. It’s moving for me to be back,’ she says of her return. After a string of fakes across China last year upset fans and Kusama herself, she’s eager for people to see her ‘authentic art’. ‘I am very disappointed that my creations, which I’ve devoted my entire life to, have been plagiarised and exposed to everyone in an improper form,’ she says.
Image: Yayaoi Kusama, courtesy Fosun Foundation
Putting all that behind us, Kusama’s latest Shanghai exhibit, All About Love Speaks Forever, takes you through her wildly colourful and exceedingly imaginative world. Alongside some of her signature pieces are a few works custom-made for Fosun off the back of artist studio visits. The Infinity Mirror Rooms (on the second floor) are accompanied by a few large-scale immersive and reflective installations, and one floor up the walls are lined with paintings from My Eternal Soul – Kusama’s latest series that she’s been working on for the past ten years.
Image: Yayaoi Kusama, courtesy Fosun Foundation
Now one of the most famous artists in the world, ranked as the top-selling female artist, Kusama’s style has spanned multiple art forms: painting, sculpture, performance, happenings, fashion, literature, poetry and more. But the rise to the top was by no means plain sailing for the much-loved creator, who has spent her life battling with mental illness.
Born into a wealthy family in the late ’20s, strongly discouraged by her parents to pursue her career as a painter, Kusama left her hometown of Matsumoto for New York in 1958, where she struggled to sustain recognition. Largely living in the shadow of her male contemporaries and grappling with her health, in the late ’70s she returned to Japan and checked herself into a psychiatric hospital where she faded out of the limelight.
Today, Kusama continues to live and work from the hospital, where she channels her illness and her life experiences into her art. In a famous 1999 interview with BOMB, she said, ‘by translating hallucinations and fear of hallucinations into paintings, I have been trying to cure my disease.’

Finally, with a new generation of followers, Kusama’s life-long work has been enjoying recognition all over the globe, and you’re going to want to see it for yourself – even if only for a matter of seconds. 

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Photograph: Yayoi Kusama, courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore/Shanghai

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