Kusama at the New York Botanical Garden – Art & Plants!

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There is still time to consult Kusama: Cosmic Nature eexhibit at the New York Botanical Garden – and you absolutely should.

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I’ve been a fan of Yayoi Kusama’s work since 2012, when I visited the Whitney Museum for a retrospective of his work. So I was very happy to hear that it was being shown at the New York Botanical Garden and took that as a reason to buy a subscription and make a reservation. (Since I wanted to take my daughters, a family membership made the most sense for us. But membership in any form is great – it supports the institution, offers free entry, includes 10% off purchases in the gift shop and gives you a tax deduction. Really, there is no reason not to register.) In addition to the membership, I paid an additional $ 30 ($ 10 each ) for a visit to Infinity Mirrored Room — Illusion within the heart. Why? Ms. Kusama has been creating Infinity Mirror Rooms since the 1960s and I had never seen one. What better chance to do it than now?

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Infinity Mirrored Room — Illusion Inside the Heart, 2020. The New York Botanical Garden, 2021. Mirror polished stainless steel, glass mirrors and colored glass. © YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner

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These days, you need timed tickets to visit the Botanical Garden – it’s a social distancing effort. A little planning ahead is necessary, but honestly, not that much. You can make a reservation and purchase a ticket online in advance. (You can also just show up, but be warned, they sometimes sell out.)

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Dancing Pumpkin, 2020. The New York Botanical Garden, 2021. Urethane painting on bronze. © YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

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We had tickets at 11:00 am and the first thing we did when we arrived was head to this Infinity Mirror room. As you had to walk a bit from the entrance to get there, we had time to visit Dancing pumpkin first. My seven year old was very impressed with this, and honestly, I was too. There is something terribly appealing and childish about Kusama’s work and we were very happy to be there. Then, the infinity room. These tickets are not timed, but I was recommended (and now recommend you) to do so earlier than late in the day so the queue will be shorter. It wasn’t too long for us, and it was fun chatting with our passionate Kusama friends while we waited. You enter the room only with your own group (up to four people). You cannot bring bags (but the staff will watch your belongings for you and your cell phone is allowed in) and if you are there on a hot day it can get very hot inside. You also have very little time before they escort you to the next viewer again. All that being said, it was worth the $ 30.

Yes, everything is done with mirrors (it’s right there in the title!), Or a wardrobe that somehow contains Narnia. The experience is strangely immersive and surprisingly delicious. I felt like I was in a kaleidoscope, or at least I think I was. (Disclaimer: I’ve never really been in a kaleidoscope.) It’s a purely happy experience – much like seeing Matisse’s work or the glow of a Broadway show, the feeling evoked is joyful.

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Now we were hungry so we stopped at the Hudson Garden Grill. I had neglected to make a reservation, but they rushed us. It is a bit pricey, but a comfortable and inviting place, and the food was good. Thus fortified, we continued to explore the land.

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Ascent of peas on trees, 2002/2021. The New York Botanical Garden, 2021. Printed polyester fabric, aluminum bungee cords and staples installed on existing trees. Collection of the artist. © YAYOI KUSAMA. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

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We didn’t see it all, but we had a great time with what we saw (and, as we’re now members, we can always go back). We stopped to admire Ascent of peas on trees. (The trees seemed to be wearing sweaters, and it was a good look for them.) My youngest daughter wanted to see the Thain family forest. The name sounded like something from Tolkien, but we didn’t see any elves, ents, or hobbits. We saw the largest remaining remnant of New York City’s original forest, 50 acres of old-growth, largely untouched forest. (It’s not completely untouched – trails are maintained, invasive species removed, and native plants introduced. But it’s pretty close and it’s a pretty amazing place to visit, given its urban location.) we just had to check out the waterfall on the Bronx River; it’s a beautiful view and worth the trip.

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Even though we were a little tired from the heat, we continued to see the Rockefeller Rose Garden, which was beautiful – over 700 varieties of roses, flowers of every color, absolutely exquisite.

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We decided to take the tram back to the entrance – a good way to get around on a hot day. (And if you want to go all the way around and see some of the highlights of the garden, you can do that from the main stop – the tour takes around 25 minutes.) Before heading home, we checked out the Everett Garden children’s adventure: festive banners at the entrance, boulders to climb, topiaries, and lots of happy children.

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You can visit the Botanical Garden at any time of the year, but the Kusama exhibit will only be visible until October 31. (Halloween is a great date to see artistic renditions of pumpkins – solid work, NYBG!)

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Laura LaVelle is a lawyer and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a century-old home, with her husband, two daughters and two cockatiels.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com.

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Hymn of Life — Tulips, 2007. The New York Botanical Garden, 2021. Mixed media. © YAYOI KUSAMA. Collection of the City of Beverly Hills.

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Images courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden and their press room