Filipinos’ Yayoi Kusama collection on display at National Gallery Singapore
See and hear the 88-year-old Yayoi Kusama sing her own composition at the "Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict" installation. National Gallery Singapore/Released
SINGAPORE — Art fans all over the world now drool over the paintings and installations from the private collection of a Filipino couple.
While it is uncertain if Filipino husband and wife Lito and Kim Camacho have the biggest collection in the world of artworks by famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, Lum Xin Mun of National Gallery Singapore said that the Camachos might be Kusama’s biggest fans in the world.
Some of the couple’s most prized Kusama possessions, also featured in an exhibition at the Ayala Museum in Makati City, Philippines in 2013, are included in “Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow,” the internationally-acclaimed artist’s first major survey in Southeast Asia.
Lito and Kim Camacho have been collecting art for over 30 years but around 15 years ago, they began participating in auctions. In 2004, they chanced upon Kusama’s works at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a love at first sight, Kim told this writer in 2013.
In fact, “Kusama had such a smashing impact” in the couple’s lives, literally. “Lito tore down our old home and built a new one with a living room showcasing her works. We started collecting other Japanese artists but Kusama will always be our favorite, said Kim, who loves Kusama because she finds the artist “fun, exuberant, adventurous, dedicated and all those things you are looking for an artist.”
In 2012, the Camachos visited the artist in her studio with Kim wearing a head-to-foot Louis Vuitton collection co-designed by Kusama. Yayoi was so grateful that she signed Kim’s LV bag and laptop, making them arguably the only Kusama-signed stuff in the world, according to Kim.
The “Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow,” exhibit in Singapore includes signature pieces, such as her infinity net paintings and infinity mirror rooms. Her most recent works – a cluster of soft sculptures and several paintings from her “My Eternal Soul” series, which has been ongoing since 2009, including the exhibition’s titular painting “Life is the Heart of a Rainbow” – have been on display for the first time.
Featuring over 120 works, including new and never-before-seen pieces, the interactive and highly “Instagrammable” exhibit offer an unprecedented opportunity to explore the creative journey of one of the world’s most widely recognized (and one of the highest paid) artists.
“We are pleased to be presenting the works of Yayoi Kusama for the first time at National Gallery Singapore. The remarkable work and life of Yayoi Kusama has entranced millions across the globe and her signature motifs of dots, nets and pumpkins have entered the popular imagination. The exhibition, which will feature seven decades of her unrelenting artistic production is a key part of the gallery’s mission to feature major artists and artistic developments from the 19th century until today. We see Kusama’s work as a powerful introduction to important modern art movements and methods such as Surrealism, Pop, Minimalism, Performance and Conceptual art,” Dr. Eugene Tan, National Gallery Singapore Director, explains in a statement.
“By presenting a wide range of works across the artist’s long career, we hope that audiences in Singapore and Southeast Asia will gain a new appreciation of an artist who now has a firm place in the global and regional art history, and is widely considered an iconic figure in popular culture.”
The gallery’s highly anticipated exhibition follows well-received Kusama shows in both Washington D.C. and Tokyo. The artist personally unveiled the exhibition in Tokyo, as part of her 88th birthday celebration. Although the artist did not open the show in Singapore, one can feel her presence in her self-portrait pictures and videos.
Kids and adults alike queue to take pictures and have fun in interactive areas like the mirrored peep room, “I want to love on the festival night,” which has been specially created for the gallery.
The exhibit takes a specific perspective on Kusama’s vast body of work, where visitors can discover the development of her iconic themes and trace their formal and conceptual interconnections through her seven-decade long career. Works on display range across different media, from paintings, sculptures, collages and video to large-scale installations.
“Kusama's world is complex: full of color and powerful symbolism. In each of her works you are transported into a universe that is deeply intimate as well as potentially boundless. We hope that the exhibition will draw visitors to the visual impact and virtuosity of Kusama’s works as well as convey the development of her style and motifs, and their personal, artistic and social context,” Russell Storer, Deputy Director, Curatorial & Collections, National Gallery Singapore, says in a statement.
The exhibition culminates in a series of spectacular installations in the gallery’s public spaces, such as the historical City Hall Chamber, extending the experience beyond the exhibition galleries.
Singapore Tourism Board’s Executive Director for Arts, Entertainment and Tourism Concept Development, Carrie Kwik said, “We are pleased to be the first Southeast Asian country to host a major survey of Yayoi Kusama’s works and we hope to see strong interest from our regional visitors. The wide range of enriching programs and interactive activities is expected to attract arts enthusiasts, Singaporeans and visitors. The exhibition also reinforces Singapore's standing as a key host city in the region for showcasing seminal works by leading global artists, and accentuates our appeal as a cultural and lifestyle destination for art lovers.”
To complete the interactive experience, the exhibit offers free talks and workshops, and also sells merchandise and Kusama-inspired food and beverage by the gallery’s partners and tenants.
The exhibition is a collaboration between National Gallery Singapore and Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane, Australia. The exhibition is co-curated by Russell Storer and Adele Tan of the Gallery and Reuben Keehan of QAGOMA. The show will travel to QAGOMA in November after its presentation in Singapore that will last until September 3.
Yayoi Kusama's "Dots Obsession" installation welcomes guests at the National Gallery Singapore's entrance.
"With All My Love for Tulips I Pray Forever" by Yayoi Kusama.
"The Sun Wants to Go on a Journey" (2012) by Yayou Kusama.
"The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens" by Yayoi Kusama.
Filipino Kusama art collectors Lito and Kim Camacho. Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
"Narcissus Garden" by Yayoi Kusama at City Hall Chamber.
"Marilyn Monroe" by Yayoi Kusama.
"Infinity Mirrored Room - Gleaming Lights of the Soul" by Yayoi Kusama.
"Invisible Life" by Yayoi Kusama.
Dessert inspired by Yayoi's famous "Pumpkin" artwork. The artist is said to be fixated at painting pumpkins as these are believed to be her childhood staple food during the war.