Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Albright-Knox Art Gallery Jointly Acquire Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe”

January 20, 2022
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Colorful spheres with polka-dots in a mirrored room

Yayoi Kusama, “Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe,” 2018. Wood and glass mirrored room with paper lanterns, 119 5/8 x 245 1/8 x 245 1/8 in. (304 x 622.4 x 622.4 cm). Courtesy Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. © YAYOI KUSAMA. Purchased jointly by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund, 2020), and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, with funds from the George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, by exchange.

In a landmark collaboration between two leading U.S. modern and contemporary art museums, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the announced today the joint acquisition of an important immersive artwork by Yayoi Kusama. “Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe” (2018) will receive its East Coast debut when “One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection” opens at the Hirshhorn this spring; dates to be announced.

In 2023, the artwork will go on display in Buffalo, New York, following the completion of Albright-Knox’s campus expansion and development project. When the museum reopens it will be known as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.

Among Kusama’s most ambitious immersive works, “Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe” represents a dynamic continuation of her artistic investigation of space and time. Throughout her career, the artist has created a series of more than 20 dazzling Infinity Mirror Rooms that present distinctive illusions of a limitless expanse. The jointly acquired mirror room installation is lined on all six sides with reflective surfaces and filled with colorfully lit paper lanterns covered by the artist’s signature polka dots. Visitors are invited to pass through the darkened room as the lanterns gradually change color and watch as their own reflections are absorbed into seemingly endless kaleidoscopic patterns.

The joint purchase, the result of a collaboration between Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn, and Janne Sirén, the Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of Albright-Knox, is emblematic of the museums’ shared commitment to championing the presentation and study of the leading art, artists and ideas of the present time.

“The acquisition of ‘Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe’ builds on the art-historical legacy of the Hirshhorn’s 2017 blockbuster presentation ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms,’ which introduced the artist’s spellbinding artworks to record audiences across North America,” Chiu said. “Our forthcoming exhibition places this recent work in the context of her early painting, sculptures and groundbreaking immersive work. We are grateful to partner with the Albright-Knox to bring this work to view on the National Mall as we celebrate our reopening.”

Betsy Johnson, assistant curator at the Hirshhorn, has organized “One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection.”

“Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart Is Dancing into the Universe” becomes the first major work by Kusama in the Albright-Knox’s permanent collection, continuing the museum’s acquisition of immersive works by global artists. At the Hirshhorn, the acquisition builds on the museum’s holdings by Kusama, joining not only “Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field” (1965/2017), the artist’s first Infinity Mirror Room, but also her sculptures “Pumpkin” (2016) and “Flowers—Overcoat” (1964) and her early painting “The Hill, 1953 A (No. 30)” (1953). Powerfully coalescing key motifs into an environment that offers a breathtaking vision of sublime obliteration, this acquisition expands the ability of both museums to illuminate the breadth of Kusama’s impressive seven-decade career.

“We are delighted to partner with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in acquiring this extraordinary work by Yayoi Kusama,” Sirén said. “We plan to debut this landmark installation in Western New York soon after our museum reopens following the completion of our campus development and expansion project. Collaborations such as this one are vital to the fulfillment of our mission to make art accessible to diverse audiences. My team and I are deeply grateful to the Hirshhorn Museum for this partnership.”

History of Kusama at the Hirshhorn

Between Feb. 23, 2017, and May 14, 2017, the Hirshhorn welcomed almost 160,000 visitors to “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” and a record 475,000 visitors to its building and sculpture garden during the same period—its highest spring visitation since the museum’s opening in 1974, driving attendance in 2017 to 1.2 million. The touring exhibition welcomed more than 800,000 visitors to partner museums across the U.S. and Canada during the next two years. Additional records set by “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” include:

  • The hashtag #InfiniteKusama reached 93 million Twitter and Instagram accounts, with 355 million impressions during the Hirshhorn’s exhibition.
  • Visitors contributed approximately 750,000 dot stickers to “The Obliteration Room,” gradually transforming the original all-white space into a riot of color (watch the time-lapse video).
  • Trained guides led more than 10,500 members of school and community groups on exhibition tours, including special American Sign Language tours and “touch tours” for the visually impaired.
  • Nearly 100 visitors with mobility constraints were able to use virtual-reality (VR) headsets to experience VR versions of the rooms as part of Hirshhorn’s commitment to radical accessibility.
  • Seasonal attendance figures at four of the six museums (including the Hirshhorn) presenting the tour were among the highest in the institutions’ histories.

About the Artist

Kusama (b. 1929, Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan) continues to produce paintings at her studio in Tokyo. She studied traditional Nihonga (Japanese-style) painting in Kyoto before moving to New York City in 1958. There she was active in avant-garde circles during the formative years of Pop art and Minimalism, exhibiting her work alongside such artists as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg—both of whom cited Kusama as influential to the development of Assemblage art, environmental art and performative practices.

Kusama exhibited widely in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands in the mid-1960s, participating in exhibitions with artists associated with the Nul, Zero and New Tendency movements in Europe and beginning to develop her interest in optics and interactive elements such as mirrors, electric lights, sound and kinetics. Kusama’s fame grew in the late ’60s through her radical antiwar “Happenings,” which featured nudity and polka dots in the streets of New York. Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, where she has since resided. In recent years, Kusama has achieved celebrity status and tremendous critical respect.

About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all. For more information about the museum, visit hirshhorn.si.edu. For more information on the Hirshhorn’s presentation of the exhibition and #EternalKusama, visit “One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection.”

About the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is recognized as home to one of the world’s leading collections of modern and contemporary art. With more than 7,000 objects in its collection and a dynamic series of exhibitions and public programs, the Albright-Knox continues to grow and to fulfill its mission to acquire, exhibit and preserve the art of the present time in an environment that engages and empowers growing audiences and encourages life-long learning and discovery. In 2019, the museum broke ground on its transformative campus development and expansion project, which will create a new work of signature architecture on the north end of its historic campus designed by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu. Upon completion of construction, the museum will reopen as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.

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