Kusama’s Newest Exhibition: ‘I Spent Each Day Embracing Flowers’ Opens in Chelsea

The renowned 94-year-old Japanese artist returned to New York City from Tokyo, building a bridge between the abstract and naturalistic world in her latest gallery


Courtesy of David Zwirner

The large floral structures in “I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers” speak to Kusama’s beliefs that flowers, and nature, grant her life and youth.


Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama unveiled her newest exhibition “I Spent Each Day Embracing Flowers” at the David Zwirner Gallery, located in Chelsea, Manhattan’s art district. Recognized for her iconic pumpkins and polka dots, the 94-year-old artist’s latest project is a four-room gallery exploring nature through the world of abstraction.

Kusama is no stranger to New York City and the David Zwirner Gallery, who has represented the artist since 2013 through multiple exhibitions. In 1958, she moved from Japan to expand her artistic career, motivated by a rise of abstract expressionism in the U.S. Some of her recent projects include her 2021 exhibition “Cosmic Feature” featured at the New York Botanical Garden highlighting her connection with nature, and a collaboration with Louis Vuitton in January in which Kusama combined the luxury brand’s classic “LV” logo with her signature polka dot style. The collaboration’s launch led Louis Vuitton to transform their stores globally, with the Upper East Side location installing a lifelike robot of Kusama painting on the store windows.

Now, New York City welcomes Kusama’s newest exhibit, which is divided into four rooms. Visitors of the gallery are free to explore the spaces in any order, each of which have different pieces of artwork that are telling of Kusama’s vision of the world.

“Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love,” is the first room within the gallery and one of Kusama’s many well-known “infinity rooms.” The exterior of the cube-shaped installation is white with several windows that are tinted various colors, allowing outside light to shine in and for viewers to see a glimpse of the inside room.

The combination of natural and artificial light bouncing off the reflective surfaces and colored dots alludes to the infinity of perception and the universe.

Visitors enter through one of the windows and are greeted with walls and ceiling covered in red, green, yellow and blue mirrors, including a reflective black floor, forming the illusion that the room is larger than it actually is. The combination of natural and artificial light bouncing off the reflective surfaces and colored dots alludes to the infinity of perception and the universe.

After exiting the infinity room, visitors can walk through a second room displaying 36 paintings most of which are part of Kusama’s “Every Day I Pray for Love” series, being shown for the first time at the Zwirner Gallery. Kusama incorporates a variety of vibrant colors and shapes including differently sized dots, circles and jagged lines. According to the David Zwirner Gallery, the series of paintings is meant to explore the concepts of line and form, blending the worlds of abstraction and realistic figuration.

Along with her “Every Day I Pray for Love” collection, Kusama published a series of poems to go along with her paintings. The poems serve as a personal statement about Kusama’s life in reference to her artwork and are available for free download on the David Zwirner website or by a QR code displayed at the exhibition itself.

Kusama is currently living voluntarily in a psychiatric asylum in Tokyo. Throughout her life she has struggled with mental illness including obsessive-compulsive disorder and hallucinations, giving a new meaning to her use of repeated patterns such as the famous polka dots. She views her art as therapeutic experimentation, a space for her to freely heal inner traumas while also producing something beautiful. Her artwork proves to be bittersweet with its colorful visuals and darker undertones.

“What does living a life mean? I lose myself in this thought every time I create artwork” Kusama said in her poem “This Mystery” from the “Every Day I Pray for Love” collection.

Most of the paintings include small intricate dots while others have more distinct striped patterns. If one looks closely they could pinpoint Kusama’s exact brush strokes on her canvases. Despite the contrasting colors, each piece remains cohesive in style and theme. A particular painting containing disfigured sketched faces surrounded by different colored dots stands out, highlighting the distinction between the real world and the abstraction taking place in Kusama’s mind. It encourages the viewer to consider Kusama’s own perception of the world, reanalyzing it through the lens of her creative vision.

Pumpkins have been a staple in Kusama’s art since the mid 1940s and remain a statement piece in her art.

The third room I entered in Kusama’s exhibition, titled “Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart,” contained large winding yellow and black polka dot pumpkin sculptures. The stems of the pumpkins are black with yellow polka dots while the body of the pumpkins display an inverted pattern.

Pumpkins have been a staple in Kusama’s art since the mid 1940s and remain a statement piece in her art. The sculpture’s twisting shape and curves dance around the room, creating a maze-like structure that viewers can walk through. “Pumpkins have been a great comfort to me since my childhood; they speak to me of the joy of living. They are humble and amusing at the same time, and I have and always will celebrate them in my art,” Kusama said in the David Zwirner Gallery’s release.

“I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers,” is the fourth and final room of the exhibition, containing three large steel flowers after which the exhibition is named. The flowers’ twisted stems and exaggerated features are kaleidoscopic and create a monstrous look, a compromise between “Alice in Wonderland” and “Plants vs. Zombies.” The sculptures nod to Kusama’s poem “Cherry Blossoms” from the “Every Day I Pray for Love” collection, in which she describes how nature, particularly flowers, grant her life and youth.

Although most people simply see dots, colors, shapes and pumpkins, Kusama’s art is far more dense and meaningful than it appears. The artist’s mind and resilience is one that has left a distinct effect on the art world. Her success as a female Japanese artist revolutionized the male-dominated New York art scene and her artistic brilliance is one most definitely worth viewing.

The ‘I Spent Each Day Embracing Flowers’ exhibition is free and open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., until June 19 and from Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., until July 21. Though the exhibition is only four rooms, it is perfect for celebrating the nature and colors of the upcoming summer.