Pumpkins & Tulips – Yayoi Kusama’s most outstanding public sculptures

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan

About Yayoi Kusama

Celebrating her 90th birthday in 2019, Yayoi Kusama is a leading Japanese artist and legend as far as art is concerned. While she deliberately makes unique pieces that can withstand the wear and tear of the outdoors, she is renowned for reproducing her art in monumental scale when need be. Her career spans over 6 decades and during this time her works have managed to enter the collection of museums such as the New York MoMA, LACMA, Tate Modern and others.

Yayoi Kusama is widely known for being a precursor of pop art and an influencer to many great artists such as Andy Warhol.

Kusama’s sculptures

Yayoi Kusama made her first sculpture in 1994 which was a solid yellow colored pumpkin with a clear spot pattern. While this first and a couple of other projects would be installed in Japan, many others would be scattered all around the world. Some of these famous works are The Visionary Flowers of 2002 to be found in the Matsumoto City Museum of Art in Nagano, Japan; the Tulipes de Shangri-La of 2003 to be found in, Eurolille, Lille, France; the Tsumari in Bloom of 2003 to be found in Niigata, Japan; and The Hymn of Life: Tulips of 2007 situated in Beverly Hills City Council, Los Angeles.

Yayoi develops a certain work overtime to sort of tell a story. Many people must have noticed the pumpkin sculptures and the frequency in which they appear in her work creates a signature effect in her works. That is however not all she does although many plant-like sculptures are made purposefully for institutions. To preserve the paintings and protect them from outdoor elements, highly durable plastic that has been reinforced with fiberglass is used for casting. This is then painted over with urethane for perfection.

The iconic yellow pumpkin on Naoshima Island

The large yellow pumpkin dotted in black on the Naoshima Island located in the Japanese Kagawa Prefecture has soon become an icon because it’s so distinctive and contrasts the natural environment. It’s located very close to water, and the reflection makes this sculpture stand out even more. It’s also located close to the Naoshima Port Terminal, so most visitors to the island will pass by the artwork.

Kusama’s pumpkin became one of the reasons why the Naoshima community is focused on art and there are quite a lot of interesting projects spread all over the island. It’s safe to say that simply installing the sculpture transformed into something inspiring and particular. Yayoi Kusama’s unique vision and sculpture has become a true icon that will make the island famous for years to come.

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan 1
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan

1min
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 1994, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan

Polka dot sculptures- Footprints of Life

Yayoi Kusama - exhibition Walking in My Mind, Hayward Gallery, London
Yayoi Kusama at group exhibition Walking in My Mind, Hayward Gallery, London
Photo: Southbank Centre/southbankcentre.co.uk

Yayoi Kusama - Guidepost to the New Space, 2012. (installation view, Pier 45, Hudson River Park Art Walk, New York.jpg
Yayoi KusamaGuidepost to the New Space, 2012, Pier 45, Hudson River Park Art Walk, New York
Photo: Garrett Ziegler/flickr.com

Yayoi Kusama - Footprints of Life, A Dream I Dreamed National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, 2015
Yayoi KusamaFootprints of Life, A Dream I Dreamed at National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, 2015

Yayoi Kusama - Footprints of Life, Ward Village Courtyard, Honolulu, 2016
Yayoi KusamaFootprints of Life, Ward Village Courtyard, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2016

Yayoi Kusama - Footprints of Life, 2016, Honolulu Biennial at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii
Yayoi KusamaFootprints of Life, Honolulu Biennial at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2016
Photo: Noe Tanigawa/hawaiipublicradio.org

Pumpkin sculptures

Yayoi Kusama - In Infinity, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark
Yayoi KusamaIn Infinity exhibition, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark
Photo: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art/louisiana.dk

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin (M) 2014, Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin (M), 2014, Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
Photo: Ala Moana Center/http://alamoanacenter.com

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin (M), 2013, Victoria Miro, London
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin (M), 2013, Victoria Miro, London

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, 2015, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 2015, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, 2015, The Glass House, Connecticut 1
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 2015, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut
Photo: Lane Coder/lanecoder.com

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, 2015, The Glass House, Connecticut
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 2015, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut
Photo: Lane Coder/lanecoder.com

1min 18sec
Vogue’s video of Yayoi Kusama’s works at Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, 2016, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Photo Cathy Carver
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, 2016, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Photo: Cathy Carver/smithsonianmag.com

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan

Yayoi Kusama - Pumpkin, Roppongi Art Night 2012, Tokyo 1
Yayoi KusamaPumpkin, Roppongi Art Night 2012, Tokyo

Yayoi Kusama - Red Pumpkin, 2006, Naoshima, Japan 1
Yayoi KusamaRed Pumpkin, 2006, Naoshima, Japan
663highland/wikimedia.org

Yayoi Kusama - Red Pumpkin, 2006, Naoshima, Japan
Yayoi KusamaRed Pumpkin, 2006, Naoshima, Japan

Flower sculptures

Yayoi Kusama - Hymn of Life- Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California
Yayoi KusamaHymn of Life: Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California

Yayoi Kusama - Hymn of Life- Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California
Yayoi KusamaHymn of Life: Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California

Yayoi Kusama - Hymn of Life- Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California
Yayoi KusamaHymn of Life: Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California

Yayoi Kusama - Hymn of Life- Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California
Yayoi KusamaHymn of Life: Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California

Yayoi Kusama - Hymn of Life- Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California
Yayoi KusamaHymn of Life: Tulips, 2007, fiberglass, ceramic tile, steel, Beverly Hills, California

Yayoi Kusama - Tsumari in Bloom, 2003, Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, Japan
Yayoi KusamaTsumari in Bloom, 2003, Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, Japan
Photo: Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale/echigo-tsumari.jp

Yayoi Kusama - Tulipes de Shangri-La, 2003, Eurolille, Lille, France
Yayoi KusamaTulipes de Shangri-La, 2003, Eurolille, Lille, France

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris 1
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris
Photo: Vivienne/viviennemackie.wordpress.com

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris 2
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris
Photo: Vivienne/viviennemackie.wordpress.com

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris 3
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris
Photo: Vivienne/viviennemackie.wordpress.com

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris 4
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris
Photo: Vivienne/viviennemackie.wordpress.com

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris 5
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom At Midnight, 2009, Tuileries Gardens, Paris
Photo: Vivienne/viviennemackie.wordpress.com

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom Tomorrow, Square Mile, London, 2012 1
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom Tomorrow, Square Mile, London, 2012
Photo: julesfoto/flickr.com

Yayoi Kusama - Flowers That Bloom Tomorrow, Square Mile, London, 2012
Yayoi KusamaFlowers That Bloom Tomorrow, Square Mile, London, 2012
Photo: Linda Nylind/pinterest.com

Yayoi Kusama - The Visionary Flowers, 2002, Matsumoto City Museum of Art, Nagano
Yayoi KusamaThe Visionary Flowers, 2002, Matsumoto City Museum of Art, Nagano

Yayoi Kusama - The Visionary Flowers, 2002, Matsumoto City Museum of Art, Nagano
Yayoi KusamaThe Visionary Flowers, 2002, Matsumoto City Museum of Art, Nagano

Self-portrait sculpture

Yayoi Kusama - Yayoi-chan, balloon, 10m, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
Yayoi KusamaYayoi-chan, balloon, 10m, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
Photo: Japan Today/japantoday.com

Yayoi Kusama - Yayoi-chan, balloon, 10m, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
Yayoi KusamaYayoi-chan, balloon, 10m, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan

Polka dot tree wrappings

Yayoi Kusama - Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, 2006, Singapore Biennale
Yayoi KusamaAscension of Polka Dots on the Trees, 2006, Singapore Biennale
Photo: Terence Ong/wikimedia.org

Yayoi Kusama - Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, Helsinki, Finland 2
Yayoi KusamaAscension of Polka Dots on the Trees, Helsinki Esplanadi Park, Helsinki, Finland
Photo: Gail/worleygig.com

3min 7sec
Video of Yayoi KusamaAscension of Polka Dots on the Trees, Helsinki Esplanadi Park, Helsinki, Finland

All images: Yayoi Kusama/yayoi-kusama.jp unless otherwise noted.

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