First presented as an unofficial installation and performance at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966, Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden (1966–present) is coming to the Rockaways in New York for the third edition of Rockaway!, a free annual arts festival. The work, which is composed of more than one thousand stainless steel spheres, was last shown in 2016 as part of a solo exhibition at The Glass House in Connecticut, where the spheres floated freely on the surface of a pond.
Curated by MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, the new site-specific installation will occupy an abandoned train garage in Fort Tilden, a decommissioned military base on the beach. Biesenbach told The New York Times that the work "will look very, very different than before." The exhibition is free and open to the public Fridays through Sundays, 12 to 6 PM, as well as Wednesday, July 4, and Monday, September 3 (Labor Day).
For its original presentation in Venice in 1966, Kusama staged Narcissus Garden—then made from plastic spheres—on the lawn outside the Italian Pavilion. Clad in a gold kimono, the artist stood among the spheres with signs reading "Narcissus Garden, Kusama" and "Your Narcissism for Sale." She offered the spheres to the public for sale for 1,200 lire (approximately $2) each in what is seen as an important moment anticipating the artist’s public performances in New York during the late 1960s. As the critic Catherine Taft writes in Yayoi Kusama, a major monograph recently re-released by Phaidon, "Infinite repetition and the multiplication of space as an act of erasure is the underlying approach to all of Kusama’s mature installations." Narcissus Garden, which has been shown around the world since the artist began revisiting her early installations in the late 1990s, achieves this effect through the polished silver surfaces of the spheres, which mirror their surroundings in a multitude of changing reflections. At Fort Tilden, this quality is also being invoked to reflect on the history of a former military site as well as the damage caused in the area by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Artnet predicts that this summer’s presentation of the work will draw even bigger crowds than last year’s edition of Rockaway!, recalling the 75,000 visitors to Festival of Life, Kusama’s 2017 solo show at David Zwirner, New York, which featured an infinity room with stainless steel balls.
Cover image: Rockaway! 2018 featuring a site-specific installation of Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama. Artwork ©YAYOI KUSAMA. Artwork courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London/Venice; and David Zwirner, New York. Image courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo by Pablo Enriquez.