It has been 52 years since Yayoi Kusama’s first Narcissus Garden installation in 1966, and the legendary Japanese artist has once again filled an entire space with a multitude of mirrored spheres. The latest version of the iconic series was commissioned for Rockaway!—a public arts festival founded by MoMA PS1’s Director, Klaus Biesenbach, that aims to support the ongoing redevelopment of New York’s Rockaway Peninsula area following Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
For the 2018 exhibition, Kusama scattered 1,500 stainless steel, mirrored spheres across the floor of an abandoned U.S. military base in Fort Tilden. The industrial structure was previously used as a train garage from the late 1800s until the 1970s, but has since been left in ruin and suffered further damage during Hurricane Sandy, just like many other buildings in the area. The balls’ silver metal surfaces reflect the buildings surroundings, drawing attention to its current dilapidated state and graffiti-covered walls.
The first Narcissus Garden installation was showcased at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966. Kusama filled the front lawn of the Italian Pavilion with hundreds of silver spheres, each reflecting the surrounding environment. Kusama herself stood among them alongside two signs: one reading “Narcissus Garden, Kusama” and “Your Narcissism for Sale” on the other. The artist tossed the (then plastic) balls in the air and offered to sell them to visitors for 1200 lire (approximately $2) each. Since then, Kusama went on the stage iterations of Narcissus Garden in various worldwide locations, including the sculpture garden of The Museum of Modern Art in 1968, and alongside one of her polka-dot installations at New York's David Zwirner Gallery in 2017.
“Six years after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Rockaways, the vulnerable area is still fighting for rebuilding and resilience,” said Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at the Museum of Modern Art. “To continue to raise awareness of the ongoing restoration work and efforts to ensure the Rockaways are prepared for future effects of climate change, the collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies, National Park Service, Jamaica Bay Rockaway Beach Conservancy, Rockaway Artists Alliance, and MoMA PS1 continues with a third iteration of Rockaway! created in close collaboration with Yayoi Kusama, evoking her youthful, courageous, and adventurous spirit with a work she first exhibited as an emerging artist, like many of the artists who live and work in the Rockaways right now.”
Narcissus Garden will remain on view until September 3, 2018, alongside an exhibition showcasing Rockaway!‘s history.
For the latest Narcissus Garden installation, Yayoi Kusama scattered 1,500 stainless steel, mirrored spheres across the floor of an abandoned U.S. military base in Fort Tilden.