It’s time, once again, for your regular reminder that you’ll never be as prolific as the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has been over the past few years—which is to say, ever since she entered her late 80s. Never mind that she’s already been a force in the art world for decades; now 89, the artist has proved strikingly successful in her mission to take it over, kicking off the years-long world tour of her 65-year retrospective, which has already broken museum attendance records and now has strict rules that allow visitors only 30 seconds per selfie; sneakily building herself her own museum; and again asserting her reign as Instagram’s favorite artist with a new installation on the beach in Queens, New York, for which she’s transported 1,500 reflective stainless steel balls to the Rockaways.
Sanctioned by MoMA PS1, the Rockaway Artists Alliance, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, this latest iteration of Narcissus Garden is a far cry from the original version of the installation, which Kusama first orchestrated decades ago—without permission—at the 1966 Venice Biennale. Before it was shut down, she stood next to a sign that read “Your Narcissism for Sale” amid her spread of reflective silver balls, throwing them up into the air and selling them for a mere $2 apiece—a move she later pointedly compared to “selling hot dogs or ice cream cones.”
At that point, each ball was made of plastic, though in the decades since—during which Kusama was absorbed in staging nude happenings and making capitalist critiques—they’ve become stainless steel, making it all the more miraculous that they normally appear floating, in ponds around the world, including in Central Park, Connecticut, and Brazil, and in an outdoor art oasis in the south of France. This time, though, she’s shifted them over from water to land. In the concrete shell of the former train garage that dates back to the beach’s days as the army base Fort Tilden, the spheres turn out to have the same eerie effect as when they’re mysteriously floating, reflecting the abandonment and damage from Hurricane Sandy that the building's interiors have weathered.
As has become usual for Rockaway!, MoMA PS1’s annual free public art festival, PS1’s director and MoMA’s chief curator at large, Klaus Biesenbach, led the brigade to the site on the Friday morning, prior to its official opening, on July 1, welcoming Patti Smith and more aboard a ferry to join him in getting first dibs on Instagramming Kusama's latest. Take an early look at all the stainless steel that'll likely be gracing your feed until September, here.