Like the rest of Singapore (it seems), we tried to catch Yayoi Kusama’s Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit on its last weekend at the National Gallery. The queues were legion, but BB enjoyed it, so — worth it!
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist most famous for her distinctive art made up of intricate dots, nets and pumpkin motifs. She’s also known for her dazzling room-sized installations, unique performances, and sparkling mirrored infinity rooms. This was the first time her art would be exhibited in Southeast Asia so it was definitely a must-see, in my view.
I thought it would be cool to bring BB along for his first art exhibit. Instill a sense of culture and love of all things creative, and all that. O, how naive I was. 😂
I first got a sense I wouldn’t be lingering around admiring the art when we entered the Narcissus Garden room. BB immediately wanted to be put down. He was eyeing the stainless steel balls and I could sense he was itching to touch/kick/lick one. The gallery attendant was shooting evil looks at our little group, and we (i.e. me, Hubby, and Yaya C) passed BB around in a joint effort to keep his little arms and legs from touching the whole thing.
Lesson #1: my son has a pretty solid kick.
The next hall housed the installation The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens, in Kusama’s distinctive yellow-and-black spotted theme. This was a slightly easier hall to navigate, but we still had a heck of a time keeping BB away from the hanging frames.
BB loved the room where the pumpkin installation was. “Circles!” he said, and proceeded to sing a few lines from that Blippi tootbrushing song we play to him every night to encourage him to brush. (♫ “Circles, circles, on the sides of your teeth…” ♫)
We definitely failed our Let’s-Keep-BB’s-Hands-Off-the-Artwork challenge in The Tulip Room. He loved the colorful dotted tulips — I have several shots of him leaning against the giant flower pots with a “Do Not Touch” sign clearly seen from the back. *sigh*
In BB’s defense, Kusama herself encouraged an interaction between the viewer and her art. So maybe BB is appreciating Kusama’s work properly after all.
Lesson #2: Toddlers be toddlers.
The longest queue was for the immersive infinity room experience, Gleaming Lights of the Souls. While the mirrored room was meant to “invite contemplation in an infinitely repeating, expanding space”, because of the crowds each group was only allowed around 12 seconds to “contemplate.” Still worth the queue, I think.
Finally, we visited The Obliteration Room, a room and its furniture painted white. The room was filled with thousands of colorful round stickers. Visitors could donate S$2 to the gallery which comes with a sheet of stickers — go wild and stick it anywhere, everywhere.
According to The National Gallery, the inspiration for the room comes from when Kusama was a little girl. “She started seeing the world through a screen of tiny dots. They covered everything she saw—the walls, ceilings, and even her own body. For 40 years she has made paintings, sculptures and photographs using dots to cover surfaces and fill rooms. Kusama calls this process ‘obliteration,’ which means the complete destruction of every trace of something.”
As it was a space meant to be fully immersive, BB definitely loved it. He had a blast pretend-drinking out of the cups scattered in the area, climbing some shelves, and checking out a bicycle. (I think I spotted a few Ikea pieces in there.)
Kusama’s art is truly a treat to see in person. But my key takeaway from this day is you haven’t truly lived life on the edge until you bring a rowdy toddler within hair’s breadth of artwork worth millions of dollars. Bow.