Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art's newest exhibit is awe-inspiring
Visitors to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art only get 45 seconds at a time to experience the famed Japanese artist’s Infinity Mirrored Room—Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. That may seem like a very short duration, but it’s enough time to witness the full cycling of the lights inside Kusama’s awe-inspiring art installation, and also just enough time to ponder your own place in the cosmos before getting overwhelmed. Also, it’s perfectly sufficient for snapping a few selfies.
Kusama has been creating her infinity mirrored rooms since 1963, and this particular iteration was created in 2009 and first displayed in Japan. The set-up of mirrors and warm LED lights creates the illusion of a vast, empty void stretching out for eternity, surrounding the viewer (up to two people can enter the room at a time) on all sides, as well as above and below. From outside, the room looks small and unassuming, just a white cube with a door, but inside it encompasses the entire expanse of space and time. It would probably be a really cool location to film a movie fight scene.
The Kusama exhibit also includes the artist’s Narcissus Garden, an installation of mirrored stainless steel spheres that Kusama first displayed at the Venice Biennale in 1966, when she sold each piece for $2. At that time, Kusama was still an art-world outsider, appearing without authorization at one of the most prestigious global art events. Kusama has gone from staging unauthorized performance-art pieces in front of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art to becoming the most successful living female artist in the world, with 5 million museum visitors since 2013.
In Heather Lenz’s recent documentary Kusama: Infinity, the filmmaker charts Kusama’s unlikely career, from her early work in her hometown of Matsumoto, through her days in the 1960s New York City art scene, when her work was displayed alongside the likes of Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning, through her years of obscurity and her more recent resurgence and worldwide fame. Kusama started her obsession with dots in her artwork at age 10, and first began exploring the concept of infinity in a 1958 painting of the Pacific Ocean.
“My work is based on developing my psychological problems into art,” Kusama says in the documentary, and she’s been a resident of a Tokyo mental institution since 1977. That arrangement, with her art studio nearby, has given her the stability she needs to create, and her openness about her struggles with mental illness, and how it’s reflected in her work, is both inspirational and moving.
At nearly 90, Kusama is still working diligently, with a wider audience than ever before. “Now that my life is in the last phase, I am putting all of my energy into my art,” she says in Infinity. “I hope that the power of art can make the world more peaceful.” Now anyone in Vegas can experience a bit of that beauty and peace, 45 seconds at a time.
Bellagio, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, last admission at 7:30 p.m., $14, $12 seniors, students and Nevada residents, children 12 and under free, admission includes audio tour. 702.693.7871