This New Kusama Exhibit in D.C. Comes With a Side of Bubbly

A collaboration between legendary French champagne house Veuve Clicquot and renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has debuted in Washington, D.C. after a two-year wait.

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Yayoi Kusama is renowned for her vibrant art.

Photo by Matailong Du

I’ve seen Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms on social media numerous times, but it wasn’t until I stepped into one that I truly felt the theme of infinity seemingly stretching itself past the confines of physical space.

I was in Washington, D.C. to see One With Eternity: Yayoi Kusama, an exhibit that opened in April at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Walking through this maze of polka dots and floating neon lights, Kusama’s words at the start of the exhibit---to “obliterate” my personality and “become part of [my] environment”--began to make more sense. There was a feeling of no real beginning or end in these rooms full of mirrors and glowing lights that made you feel almost swallowed by the glow of color vibrating from the floors and ceilings.

The Hirshhorn exhibit was initially set to open in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. Now, five installations that reflect 65 years of Kusama’s artmaking are available to view two years later.

The opening was complemented by another visionary, Madame Clicquot of legendary French champagne house Veuve Clicquot. The brand is supporting the exhibition and partnered with the Hirshhorn on the exhibit’s opening day with a special, bubbly-fueled luncheon and poem read by artist Cleo Wade to honor both Clicquot and Kusama’s vision. Madame Clicquot Ponsardin took over her husband’s business when she became a widow at age 27. Female entrepreneurship was uncommon at that time, but Madame Clicquot went on to create the world’s first blended rosé champagne and a global brand that’s still well-known today.

Kusama has noted that her fascination with psychedelic colors and repetitive patterns such as dots stem from hallucinations she would experience as a child. She would draw these visions that appeared to her as a way to stay calm, and these same interpretations would later become works of art making appearances across the world.

“Poetry is central to Kusama’s practice. In 2020, very early on in the pandemic, she wrote a poem addressing the crisis and calling for peace and love. With the artist’s permission, we added it to the exhibition, where it fills a gallery wall,” says Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu.

Artist Yayoi Kusama has a colorful new exhibit called ‘One With Eternity’ at the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C.

This is not Clicquot and Kusama’s first pairing. In 2006, Kusuma adorned an original portrait of Madame Clicquot with her signature polka dots in a project titled Twist with Madame Clicquot! for a Tokyo charity auction. In 2020, Kusama designed a limited-edition bottle of La Grande Dame’s 2012 cuvée, decked out again with her signature polka dots to represent the bubbles of champagne, alongside opulent floral motifs.

This specially designed bottle was accompanied by a Veuve-commissioned Kusama sculpture called My Heart That Blooms in the Darkness of the Night, which was available for the public to view for the first time in April at the Conrad Hotel in Washington, D.C. The hotel also offers a new brunch menu where seasonal ingredients will be paired with La Grande Dame 2012.

Kusama’s collaborations with Veuve Clicquot are meant to help spread the sentiment of joy and optimism through vivacious colors. The exhibit in D.C. intends to draw parallels between Clicquot and Kusama, who are both trailblazers in their own work. “Like Madame Clicquot, Yayoi Kusama was a daring figure in her own field, visible in her flawless commitment to her art, making a name for herself through her passion and creative energy. These two fascinating women shared parallel destinies while living centuries apart,” says Adriana Angulo, senior brand director of La Grande Dame by Veuve Clicquot.

The One With Eternity: Yayoi Kusama at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will run until November 27, 2022. Entry is free, but timed passes are required.

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Kristin is a travel journalist and founder of Crush Global Travel. She has penned pieces for Vogue, CNN, USA Today, Essence, NPR, Architectural Digest, Ebony, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Her perfect day includes soca music, rum, and the ocean.
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