Quebec's infinite passion for Yayoi Kusama

On the occasion of its 15th anniversary, the Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montreal is dedicating an exhibition “DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE” to Yayoi Kusama, a major figure on the international art scene. And for this being a first in Quebec, the audience is there! As proof, the first -free- tickets sold out in a few minutes on the Foundation's website, which had announced on social networks that they were available online a few weeks earlier.

Spread over two spaces and several levels, the exhibition presents recent works: her famous bronze Pumpkins, acrylics, mirror installations, as well as two of her famous Infinity Mirrored Rooms.


Some of the Pumpkins, made of polished bronze, lacquer and mirror, are very impressive and almost human in size. They welcome the public discovering what the artist calls a "charming and seductive form". This is the poetry of Yayoi Kusama's work: simple forms with a Pop universe that undulate, reflect and mirror our silhouette. As a child, in her grandfather's garden, she developed a taste for cucurbits, before painting them for the first time at the age of 19 and making sculptures of them a few years later.


Installation view, Yayoi Kusama: DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE, 2022, Fondation PHI. Yayoi Kusama, INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM ⁠— BRILLIANCE OF THE SOULS, 2014 © Fondation PHI pour l’art contemporain, photo: Richard-Max Tremblay


As soon as you enter, you are plunged into the dreamlike world of Yayoi Kusama, now 93 years old. First of all, the polka dots that are found throughout her work and which she sees as an essential element in her work. Then the obsessive repetition and infinity, magnified by the mirrors that are at the centre of her plastic universe. Marked from childhood by hallucinations and mental illness, she places her personal troubles at the heart of her artistic process. Like a catharsis, her art is a means of comfort that she wishes to share with the Foundation's visitors.


All this research reaches its apex in the Infinity Mirrored Rooms. These immersive and sensory experiences invite the visitor to lose themselves in the infinite, to a moment of peace. Two installations conclude the Fondation PHI's exhibition and only 45 seconds are given to visit these Infinity Mirrored Rooms! In this enclosed space covered with mirrors and lights, the visitor is at the centre of the work, both being an actor and being swallowed up by the sensory experience. It's better to hurry up and take a break to take a picture before posting it on Instagram!


Due to the success of the first month of the exhibition, the PHI Foundation has set up additional visiting slots without reservation, on Sundays between 11am and 12pm, so it's best to arrive early, very early, to have a chance to visit the exhibition, or to reserve every 15th of the month for the following month. The exhibition runs until 15 January 2023.


Cover image: Yayoi Kusama, INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM — DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE, 2019 Verre miroité, bois, système d'éclairage DEL, métal et panneau en acrylique © YAYOI KUSAMA Avec l’aimable permission de David Zwirner, Ota Fine Arts et Victoria Miro Photo: Kerry McFate


Chloé Dupont