Destinartion #4: TOKYO: I WANT TO BE A MANGA ARTIST (The National Art Center, Tokyo – Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul)

Hi, it’s been around 3 weeks since I arrived in Tokyo. I thought it was possible to visit at least one museum/exhibition during my first week in Tokyo, but it was impossible. My initial plan was to visit Tokyo Art Fair 2017 on the day of my arrival (it was its last day), however I was too drained (carrying 4 huge luggage did that to me). Too bad cause there was a Ron English sculpture, something I wanted to see. Even Indonesia’s very own Lawangwangi has its own space at Tokyo Art Fair 2017!

Now onto the point of this post. I finally visited a checklist of mine last week. It was Yayoi Kusama’s very own exhibition titled My Eternal Soul. It includes all of her work, including her childhood days in Nagano, entering her youth in New York, and her recent works made in Tokyo. As recent as artworks made in 2016!

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Yayoi Kusama’s productivity astounds me, at the age of almost 90, she still continues to work on her art. It’s so amazing to see. I’m still 21 and I’ve never been much productive!!! Most of the spots at the exhibition didn’t allow photography, so I took some notes on what she has to say about what is art to her. This was what she wrote:

“I intend to continue creating works of art as long as my heart keeps beating. My greatest desire is that my vision of a future of eternal harmony among people can be carried on. I want to pursue my struggle as an avant-garde artist until expire.”

Before entering the exhibition hall, we were ushered into a white box, with white furniture, white clothes and a few other white items inside. We were given colorful stickers to stick them on to random spots inside the box. I saw this on Instagram for her exhibition in Australia, I didn’t think there would be one here, but there was! Pretty happy.

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We entered the exhibition room, the first thing I saw was the main attraction of this exhibition, properly titled My Eternal Soul, just like what the exhibition’s called. It was amazing. The room consisted of 132 paintings and 3 large sculptures. My Eternal Soul series started in 2009, there are actually over 500 (!!!) works, but only 132 works were exhibited (132 is a lot too!). It was a series of paintings on 194cm x 194cm canvases, there were smaller ones too, but the smallest that were on display was on 162cm x 162cm too, still freaking huge anyway. One thing that caught me was the titles of each painting, such as “I Want to be A Manga Artist”, “Once the Abominable War Is Over, Happiness Fills Our Hearts”, “Facing Youth” and hundreds more.

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Pretty freaking crowded that day, wasn’t even a weekend!

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A slideshow of some of the paintings and sculptures I managed to take photos of!

Afterwards, we went to see early works by Yayoi Kusama, her works made in her hometown of Matsumoto, Nagano. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I just took notes and now I’m writing them here. She began learning Nihonga when she was young. Nihonga itself is a Japanese painting style. She didn’t find the lessons intriguing so she quit learning Nihonga and started to create artworks independently. Even in Matsumoto, we can already see dots, plants and animal forms on her artworks, which are basically the base of her artworks up until today. For example, she drew a person, but then she still covered the person with dots! Finally, an art critic named Shūzō Takiguchi saw her works and brought her Tokyo to exhibit her artworks.

Then, again no pictures were allowed, but this time we went to the exhibition room for works by Yayoi Kusama in New York. It was my first time seeing her works that were made in New York. There were no colors, no center, mostly monochrome. Something that I didn’t imagine Yayoi Kusama would make. She also started to become interested in sex and food. There were a great deal of phallic sculptures and installations, sort of awkward because my little brother kept asking what those shapes were. There were also collages from the most random things. US Mail stickers, her name in a repetitive form, and heaps more. She also had a performance art in New York.

Next room, I think it was the last. Her works made in Tokyo. Due to her illness she had to go back to Japan, so she started working again in a hospital, in Japan. Again, her productivity astounds me!!!! Here in Tokyo, she still continued her love of polka dots, nets and phallic forms. She also started getting into vivid colors like the Yayoi Kusama we know today, red and yellow. She explored subjects of death and the universe, she also started poetry. There were a considerable amount of new elements during this era. Again, no pictures were allowed!! I’m sorry.

At the end of the exhibition we exited through the gift shop (as Banksy would say), I wanted to buy a postcard (I always buy postcards from exhibitions because they are the cheapest souvenir lol), BUT the queue was hardcore. My brother was hungry, my mom was hungry, and I was hungry. So in the end I didn’t buy the postcards.

Anyway though, you should go to the exhibition if you’re in Tokyo! The exhibition runs until May. It was such an exciting experience, to see all of Yayoi Kusama’s remarkable artworks all in one place.

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Queueing for the tickets

Also, the National Art Center, Tokyo (NACT) building is a sight for your eyes too. Plus, if you’re planning to visit, it’s probably better to get your tickets online or through a konbini. I got there at 9:30AM, but the queue was already very long. I have never queued that long for an exhibition before! NACT also just opened an Alfons Mucha exhibition, it runs until June.

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Yo cutest Yayoi tree, this is after I finished viewing the exhibition, there was still a long queue outside!

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One of the dining areas inside NACT

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10th Anniversary Poster

LAST ONE, NACT is located near Roppongi, and it is included in “Art Triangle Roppongi”. There are a great amount of art museums and galleries in Roppongi, such as the Mori Art Museum, Suntory Art Museum and more.

+ I apologize that my posts aren’t that timely yet. There were some things I had to deal with when I first arrived. Residency, school, apartment, phone account, gas, health insurance, etc. They were actually pretty simple, but for a non-Japanese speaker like me it was all very complex, see you soon on my next post! Promise I’ll be timelier!!

DETAILS:

The National Art Center, Tokyo

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