«The Exhibition as Artwork»

On Yayoi Kusma’s Retrospective at Gropius Bau

For artists, the manner in which their artworks are presented is of vital importance. An exhibition’s design guides the viewer’s eye and shapes stories. Yet for some artists, an exhibition is not simply a way of framing their work but itself forms part of the work. The exhibition spaces Yayoi Kusama creates are works of art filled with objects, figures and activity.

Inevitably, many of her ephemeral, site-specific creations disappear once an exhibition ends and live on only in photographs. This makes it all the more astonishing for her creations to be resurrected after decades, once again allowing viewers to experience the artist’s work in an entirely new and immersive manner. Kusama’s sculptural works demonstrate what it means to transcend boundaries; as in James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, the artist’s pieces are holistic, forming an open system rather than merely a sum of separate parts. At the same time, the exhibition also tells about the emergence of the artist, the individual conditions and relationships of the work to the time that encompasses it. So one goes on at least two journeys when visiting this exhibition.