You've never seen summer like this.

By Andrea Romano
April 12, 2021
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A new exhibit is open at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), but this display is a little more "otherworldly" than you might expect.

Artist Yayoi Kusama has been well-known for decades for her ethereal sculptures, usually covered in her signature polka dots. Her art is often inspired by the natural world, so it only makes sense that a new exhibition, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, was created for the New York Botanical Garden.

Yayoi Kusama, Flower Obsession Video Still
Credit: Courtesy of The Artist

"Dancing through our universe are noble souls whose magnificent forms are saturated with mystery. I invite you to explore the endlessly expanding ode to the beauty of love that is my art," Kusama shared in a statement from NYBG.

On view until Oct. 31, 2021, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is inspired by both Kusama's fascination with plants as well as her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family's seed nursery in Matsumoto, Japan, according to a statement from NYBG.

The exhibition is spread out over four experiences that can be found throughout NYBG and includes works from throughout Kusama's career. Guests can see her works installed across the Garden landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building, as well as through programs put on by NYBG.

Narcissus Garden, Yayoi Kusama at New York Botanical Gardens
Credit: Robert Benson Photography/Courtesy of NYBG

NYBG described KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature as "[illuminating] the power of nature that pervades the artist's practice and dynamic body of work."

"For Kusama, cosmic nature is a life force that integrates the terrestrial and celestial orders of the universe from both the micro- and macrocosmic perspectives she investigates in her practice. Her explorations evoke meanings that are both personal and universal," said guest curator Mika Yoshitake, Ph.D., in NYBG's statement. "Nature is not only a central source of inspiration, but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama's artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present."

The multiple installations include gigantic sculptures and paintings that create a fresh, new experience for guests who visit the Garden's 250-acre landscape. Among the works debuting in the exhibition include "Flower Obsession" (2017/2021), Kusama's first-ever "obliteration greenhouse;" "Dancing Pumpkin" (2020), a huge sculpture in the shape of a pumpkin presented on the Haupt Conservatory Lawn; "I Want to Fly to the Universe" (2020), a 13-foot-high spider-like "biomorphic form" presented in the Visitor Center; and "Infinity Mirrored Room-Illusion Inside the Heart" (2020), an outdoor, mirror-box installation that reflects NYBG's seasonal environment.

My Soul Blooms Forever, Yayoi Kusama at New York Botanical Gardens
Credit: Robert Benson Photography/Courtesy of NYBG

Kusama's work perfectly complements NYBG's gorgeous seasonal displays, ranging from tulips and irises in spring, to dahlias and sunflowers in summer, to pumpkins and autumnal flowers in the fall. Her plant-inspired works can also be seen tucked among meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, zinnias, violas, and chrysanthemums, among other types of plants.

NYBG has planned a number of public programs, particularly for children, including pop-up performances from musicians and other artists as well as self-guided activities in the Everett Children's Adventure Garden.

Dancing Pumpkin, Yayoi Kusama at New York Botanical Gardens
Credit: Robert Benson Photography/Courtesy of NYBG

There is limited, timed-entry tickets for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature in order to stagger visitors' arrivals and promote social distancing. Guests must reserve tickets beforehand on the NYBG website before entering.

In tandemVeuve Clicquot re-released their limited edition La Grande Dame 2012 champagne bottles that are designed by Yayoi Kusama - ornately decorated with her signature dots, bright colors, and artistic style to spread a message of joy, hope, and optimism.

Typically hosting their annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic this time of year, the brand opted to instead to kick off the summer season at NYBG where locals and visitors have the opportunity to enjoy Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame and Yellow Label (by the glass and by the bottle) paired with curated garden inspired food pairings at the on-site restaurant, Hudson Garden Grill. Reservations can be booked via Open Table.

Tickets for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors (over 65) and students with a valid I.D., $15 for children under 12, and free for children under two. The exhibition is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

For more information or to buy a ticket, visit the New York Botanical Garden website.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.