Yayoi Kusama’s Montreal exhibition opens a window into her whimsical world (FIRST LOOK)

For the first time ever, works by world-renowned contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama will be exhibited individually in Quebec. A new, free exhibition at Montreal’s PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art opens July 6, showcasing a selection of the prolific creator’s work, including sculpture, paintings and two of her famous infinity rooms. Each stunning installation underscores Kusama’s interest in the cosmic expanses and exploration of our tiny place under the stars.

Regardless of the medium, Kusama’s works feature vivid dots that are a main motif of her work. Similar to points of light in the night sky, these tiny, repeating patterns refer to infinity and offer moments of self-reflection or escape into anonymity.

“There’s a side of us that connects to her work—the colors, the shapes, and the questions they evoke,” said curator Cheryl Sim.

“That’s what made her so popular and made her work resonate with people for so long.”

In a room with a wooden floor and a concrete pillar, someone looks at one of three oversized brass gourds covered in dots.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

The 93-year-old artist’s productivity and creativity hasn’t slowed, and she continues to push the boundaries of the avant-garde well into her seven-decade career.

The first room in the exhibit houses several larger-than-life spotted brass gourds, another distinctive shape from Kusama’s work.

One floor up, two peep-in-infinity rooms introduce the viewer to smaller versions of their walk-in installations, like a giant kaleidoscope to gently peer into.

The mirrored blocks can be viewed from multiple sides through windows of different sizes. Lights flash and change color inside, creating a psychedelic show.

A third room features a reading area and a guided photo tour of Kusama’s life. There you can see firsthand how prolific and diverse her work is.

A person looks at eight massive canvases covered with repeating patterns such as faces, dots, and lines.A person looks at eight massive canvases covered with repeating patterns such as faces, dots, and lines.@willa.hhh | Instagram

The rest of the exhibition is housed in another room that can only be accessed by exiting the first building, so be prepared for a short walk. If you look through the windows to your right at street level, you can catch a glimpse of the installation bleu de lieuan interactive, tactile arrangement of squishy foam shapes by artist collective doux soft club.

The second building houses eight paintings that are immersive due to their sheer size, bursting with primary colors and simplified, repeating patterns.

Someone's reflection in a mirrored room full of balls of light that seem endless.Someone’s reflection in a mirrored room full of balls of light that seem endless.@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

Finally, just around the corner you will find yourself in front of two infinity mirror rooms. With only a few fleeting minutes at a time, you’ll need to make the most of your time in these shimmering spaces that feel and look endless – but take just a few steps inside, they’re deceptively small!

“They will make you ask questions of an existential nature,” Sim said.

The Kusama exhibition at Fondation PHI runs until January 15, 2023. Admission is free, but you must reserve the date and time in advance. The show is fully booked for July, but tickets for the month of August will be released on July 15 at 12pm. Each visit lasts approximately 45 minutes.

Yayoi Kusama: DANCING LIGHTS FLYING HIGH INTO THE UNIVERSE

Hundreds of tiny points of light of different colors reflected in an endless pattern.

Hundreds of tiny points of light of different colors reflected in an endless pattern.

@sofsilva.mtl | Instagram

When: July 6, 2022 – January 15, 2023

Where: PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, 451 & 465 rue Saint-Jean

Cost: Free, but reservation is required.

Accessibility: Partially accessible for people with reduced mobility. The building at 451 Saint-Jean is wheelchair accessible, but the sidewalk at Saint-Jean Street is narrow. There is an elevator serving all four floors and an accessible bathroom in the basement. The main entrance to the gallery at 465 Saint-Jean has a staircase leading to the main hallway. There is an accessible entrance at the back of the building, located in the parking lot. There is no handicap accessible bathroom in this building.

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