Where in the world is Yayoi Kusama?
That was the question last night at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where the iconoclastic Japanese artist, who first made her name in New York a half-century ago, was being fêted ahead of her major career retrospective opening Friday.
“She’s here, somewhere,” someone speculated of the diminutive 83-year old with the trademark red wig. “I heard that she was on her way,” Glee star Dianna Agron, a Kusama obsessive, told us, “but that she turned around at the door.” So, it was a case of nerves? This account conflicted with that of Kusama’s longtime Tokyo dealer, Hidenori Ota, who relayed that, actually, “Kusama”—who typically resides in a mental hospital in Japan—“has been very relaxed these past few days.” Another guest, a store designer for Louis Vuitton—whose CEO Yves Carcelle co-hosted the evening along with W’s Stefano Tonchi and Whitney director Adam Weinberg—said he glimpsed the mercurial artist earlier in the day, at the opening of the pop-up shop featuring her new collaborative collection with Vuitton.
Nevertheless, the crowd—which included Diane Kruger, Sofia Coppola, Kaya Scodelario, Martha Stewart, Margherita Missoni, Jenny Holzer, Teresita Fernandez,—were in thrall to the exhibition. “Isn’t it beautiful?” Paula Cooper, the gallerist who helped revive Kusama’s reputation in the nineties, marveled as she looked up at the oversize polka-dot balloons looming over the Whitney’s downstairs dining room. By the way, it was time for dinner—and still the Polka Dot Queen, as Kusama is sometimes called, was nowhere to be found.
Several courses later, Whitney director Adam Weinberg sidled up to a microphone. “We are told Kusama is resting,” he announced, to murmurs of disappointment. “But she loves dessert, and she wishes that you all have some in her honor.” We did. Then we danced, to the vigorous rhythms of Blonde Redhead, who played the after party. It was a celebration, after all. As Weinberg had said earlier in the evening, “It’s Kusama’s homecoming party, long overdue.”