Visions of Kusama

The 83-Year-Old Japanese Artist Is Back in New York


Dianna Agron   
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Yayoi Kusama was a no-show at her own welcome-back party, but that didn't stop A-listers like Sofia Coppola and Diane Kruger or the art world stars Tom Sachs and Kara Walker from raising a glass in the Japanese iconoclast's honor at the opening of her Whitney retrospective last night. The dinner was hosted by W magazine and Louis Vuitton, which is simultaneously launching a collaboration between Kusama and Marc Jacobs. "I've been a fan of hers for years," Dianna Agron told "Going against the grain of what you first learned, against your training—it's fantastic."

If New York knows Kusama only for her polka dots and phallic sculptures, the six-decade-spanning exhibition, with its delicate watercolors and detailed collages, seems designed to change that. "I think it will be a great surprise," the Whitney's Adam Weinberg said. "Her range is extraordinary." Vuitton's Yves Carcelle emphasized the artist's perfectionism. Discussing their partnership, he said, "We learned that between a dot and a dot, there are millions of differences."

As for Kusama's absence, the octogenarian artist, who retired to a mental institution in Japan 40 years ago after a 15-year stint in the New York art scene, had a good excuse. She spent the greater part of the day at LV's Fifth Avenue flagship, where her polka-dotted collaboration with Jacobs was unveiled. "Having met Marc changed my visions," she said. "I've had some hard times in my life, but having met him and having done this collaboration makes me feel that life is beautiful."

Kusama has the same kind of effect on others. With a line of people waiting to get in to her Fireflies on the Water installation behind them, more than a few partygoers were reminded of the one-minute rule by a security guard's sharp knock on the door. You can see infinity in there.

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