The largest of the artist’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, LOVE IS CALLING will become a new anchor in the ICA’s collection

(Boston, MA—January 15, 2019)  Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), announced today the acquisition of Yayoi Kusama’s LOVE IS CALLING (2013), one of the artist’s 20 existing Infinity Mirror Rooms. LOVE IS CALLING is one of Kusama’s most immersive, psychedelic environments and features vividly colored, tentacle-like, inflatable sculptures covered with the artist’s signature polka dots and encased in a mirrored room to create an illusion of infinite space. It is the second work by Kusama to enter the collection, alongside a 1953 work on paper of organic forms, dots, and colors—elements that are characteristic of her work. LOVE IS CALLING has been acquired through the generosity of Barbara Lee, The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women, Fotene and Tom Coté, Hilary and Geoffrey Grove, Vivien and Alan Hassenfeld, Jodi and Hal Hess, Barbara H. Lloyd, and an anonymous donor. A new anchor in The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women, LOVE IS CALLING goes on view in Fall 2019. 

LOVE IS CALLING showcases the breadth of the artist’s visual vocabulary—from her signature polka dots and soft sculptures, brilliant colors and the spoken word, to endless reflections and illusions of space and self,” said Medvedow. “We are very grateful to our generous donors who made this acquisition possible, and look forward to sharing this immersive experience with our visitors for years to come.”

“Over a six-decade-long career, Kusama has indelibly shaped some of the most important art movements of the twentieth century, including Minimalism, Pop art, and feminist and performance art,” said Eva Respini, the ICA’s Barbara Lee Chief Curator. “LOVE IS CALLING is the largest Infinity Mirror Room of its kind held by a North American museum collection and one of Kusama’s most significant artistic achievements. We are delighted that the ICA will be its new home.”

With LOVE IS CALLING, Kusama offers visitors the opportunity to experience her notion of the infinite. As visitors walk throughout the installation, a sound recording of Kusama reciting a love poem in Japanese plays continuously. Written by the artist, the poem’s title translates to Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears in English. Exploring enduring themes including life and death, the poem poignantly expresses Kusama’s hope to spread a universal message of love through her art.

Kusama came to the United States from Japan in 1957 and was a vital part of New York avant-garde art circles until the 1970s. Departing from her training in traditional nihonga Japanese painting, Kusama’s practice in the early 1950s embraced methods of Western modernism. Shifting from two-dimensional to environmental creations after 1962, Kusama’s sculptural practice emerged in the form of objects such as furniture and clothes covered in soft, phallic protuberances of different colors and patterns. Her first mirrored environment, entitled Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field (1965), signaled a turn to the social: her works became more immersive and her studio practice slowed in favor of protest events, performances, and happenings, which included performers painted in polka dots. Uniquely, Kusama’s art making broadens and evolves in tandem with the cultural, political, and visual revolutions of the psychedelic sixties. Kusama’s early Infinity Mirror Rooms, either mirrored or painted polka dots, were originally celebrated but challenging to collect given their size and were rarely exhibited. In 1966, the ICA exhibited an Infinity Mirror Room, now titled Endless Love Show, in the exhibition Multiplicity. The artist returned to Japan in 1973, and for the next 25 years focused on writing and publishing her poems and novels. In 2002, Kusama constructed Fireflies on the Water, her first darkened Infinity Mirror Room, and in 2013 she premiered LOVE IS CALLING at Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan. 

About the artist

Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929, Matsumoto, Japan) is one of today’s most recognized and celebrated artists. In addition to her widely popular Infinity Mirror Rooms, Kusama creates vibrant paintings, works on paper, and sculpture with abstract imagery. Work by the artist is held in museum collections worldwide, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; amongst numerous others. In October 2017, the Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in Tokyo. The artist lives and works in Tokyo.

About the ICA

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and augmenting art’s role as educator, incubator, and convener for social engagement. Its innovative exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. Spanning two locations across Boston Harbor, the ICA offers year-round programming at its iconic building in Boston’s Seaport and seasonal programming (May-September) at the Watershed in an East Boston shipyard.

The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.