In the heart of Hoxton an innocuous facade houses the incredible world of the Victoria Miro gallery. Run by Victoria Miro (a ‘grand dame of the Britart scene’) the gallery represents Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry and has hosted a wide range of exciting, thought-provoking exhibitions since it was first opened more than thirty years ago.
Their current exhibition by Yayoi Kusama, however, is something truly special. Just look at the line down the block to see it!
Influential artist Yayoi Kusama is as famous for her innovation as she is for her many re-inventions of her style over the years. The centerpieces of this new exhibition are three mirror rooms – All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Chandelier of Grief and Where the Lights in My Heart Go – which put the viewer inside a seemingly endless world of reflections.
From the gallery’s website:
‘Spanning the gallery’s three locations and waterside garden, the exhibition features new paintings, pumpkin sculptures, and mirror rooms, all made especially for this presentation. This is the artist’s most extensive exhibition at the gallery to date, and it is the first time mirror rooms have gone on view in London since Kusama’s major retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012.’
You begin your visit with Chandelier of Grief.
After winding our way in line around a solid white box we were ushered through a giant sliding door into a world of sparkle and silence.
A solitary chandelier hangs in the centre of the room, surrounded by its ghostly reflection.
It’s called Chandelier of Grief but, strangely, it felt light and uplifting rather than heavy and full of despair. Perhaps it depends on what mood the viewer is in?
Next up was the primary reason for my curiosity and our visit: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.
We climbed stairs up to the gallery’s second floor and waited patiently in (another) line for our chance to step into the infinite world of gorgeous, glowing pumpkins.
Being surrounded by pumpkins that stretch for infinity (along with your many twin siblings, of course) is an incredible, strange feeling that is only enhanced by the complete silence that descends when the room’s door closes.
Time inside the piece is limited (20 seconds to a minute depending on when you go which is closely regulated by a girl guarding the door with a stopwatch to ensure no one overstays their welcome) so I snapped away with my camera as quickly as I could, determined to try and capture this moment for prosperity.
But my time was up before I knew it and I didn’t really get an opportunity to truly enjoy the moment. Lesson learned: put the technology away and live in the moment!
Scattered on the floor of the upper level are three mirror polished sculptures of pumpkins They look a bit like what I imagine the glowing pumpkins I’d just seen would look like with the lights up!
Back down on ground level we headed out to the garden where the exhibition continued.
(The majority of the lawn is taken up by the piece ‘Narcissus Garden’ 1966 which is on semi-permanent display at Victoria Miro. A sea of gently floating silver orbs that sway in the breeze and make the daintiest of clinking noises as they say ‘hello’ to one another.)
The final mirrored room – Where the Lights in My Heart Go – sits in the shade of the surrounding trees and is mirrored inside and out:
Ducking inside you’re struck by the vast openness as, unlike the other two mirrored rooms, this one is completely empty and the only light comes from tiny holes cut into the walls allowing you the opportunity to peek at the outside world.
Once you’re back in the light of day you head across the garden to (what felt like) an infinite number of stairs to the upper gallery to check out the paintings. Really interestingly, the artist has described these pieces as a response to ‘hallucinations first experienced in childhood’.
As the pumpkin is a motif the artist has rather notoriously returned to throughout her career it wasn’t surprising to see it make another appearance among the paintings.
Tickets to the Yayoi Kusama exhibition are free and, unsurprisingly, the exhibition is drawing huge crowds so if you can get there in the morning on a weekday you’re more likely to have a longer experience in the mirrored rooms and less wait time between the pieces.
Though, in fact, it isn’t generally too bad on weekends. We went on a Saturday afternoon and waited in line less than 45 minutes before getting in.
The only thing that was disappointing was that because of the crowds we were only allowed 20 seconds each in All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins when I had heard other people got up to a minute. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference but 20 seconds goes by so fast you don’t have time to truly take it in.
…I may have to go back on a quiet morning before the exhibition ends on July 30th! See you there?