Following a successful run during Manchester International Festival 2023, Yayoi Kusama’s You, Me and the Balloons exhibition has extended its opening hours at Manchester’s new landmark cultural venue.
Tens of thousands of people have visited this major new installation by the celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and had the chance to see inside Aviva Studios, Factory International’s flagship new venue, ahead of its official opening in October.
From Friday 4th August, visitors will now be able to experience the spectacular exhibition, Kusama’s largest and most ambitious immersive environment to date, on Friday and Saturday evenings, with tickets available from 7.30pm and last entry at 9.45pm. Full-price tickets are £15 with concessions available. The exhibition is on view until 28th August 2023.
A free programme of family activities inspired by You, Me and the Balloons will run throughout the summer, from dance workshops, upcycling, craftmaking and other learning activities led by local artists, makers and creators.
On Saturday 5th August, audiences can get a curator’s insight into the exhibition and Kusama’s life and work with an illustrated talk by Phoebe Greenwood, Curatorial Associate at Factory International, and Katy Wan, Asistant Curator at Tate and curator of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms.
Designed especially for Aviva Studio’s vast new Warehouse space, You, Me and the Balloons brings together for the first time a collection of Kusama’s most significant inflatable artworks from the past 30 years, most of which have not been seen before in the UK. The exhibition is the first large-scale UK presentation of Kusama’s work since her acclaimed retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012.
You, Me and the Balloons invites visitors to immerse themselves in Kusama’s psychedelic universe as they journey through a colourful landscape of large-scale inflatable sculptures, many standing over 10-meters-tall or suspended from the 21-metre-high ceiling. A giant pumpkin, inflatable dolls, mirrored spaces and polka-dot spheres are among the well-known motifs featured in the show.
In an interview for the exhibition catalogue, Yayoi Kusama said:
It would be interesting if people would experience the show as a wonderland. The experience of the scale is what’s important. Inflatable works expanded my creative means in terms of scale that could not have been achieved by stuffed soft sculptures, and the freedom of placing them up in the air.
For me, the world is genuinely full of surprises. It is not that I want to inspire a childlike awe or wonder, but to inspire through my genuine perception of the world.
Entering the exhibition, a tunnel leads visitors into a new iteration of The Hope of the Polka Dots Buried in Infinity will Eternally Cover the Universe (2019), a maze of large-scale biomorphic balloons rising floor to ceiling. Stairs within the installation lead up to a roof platform offering panoramic views of the exhibition before descending into the main Warehouse space.
Included is Kusama’s first balloon series Dots Obsession (1996/2023), reimagined for the 65-metre-long Warehouse as a constellation of large inflatable polka-dot shapes suspended in mid-air. In Dots Obsession (2013), visitors can enter one of Kusama’s renowned infinity mirror rooms located inside a large red inflatable dome.
The exhibition features Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict (2007), a video projection showing Kusama singing about her experience of depression and a new presentation of the artist’ inflatable Clouds (2023), which has been created especially for the installation. Positioned on the floor, these soft sculptures invite visitors, for the first time, to sit or lie on the works. In the colossal work A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe (2021), which spans over 11 metres in length, visitors can immerse themselves in an inflatable forest of giant glowing pink tentacles.
Kusama’s career spans eight decades and she is widely recognised as one of today’s most important living artists. Her signature motifs and materials, such as repeated polka dots, brightly coloured pumpkins and kaleidoscopic Infinity Mirror Rooms have transcended the traditional art establishment to become part of global popular culture.
Kusama Seed and Plant Pots, Friday 28 July and 4, 11 and 18 August*, 11am – 2pm
Kusama was inspired by the beauty of the natural world. Explore your artistic side and join us for a plant pot painting session.
*The session on Friday 11 August is BSL interpreted by Lizzie Wharton. The session on Friday 18 August is BSL interpreted by Maria Brennan.
Kusama Bugs, Tuesday 1, Wednesday 9 and Tuesday 15 August, 11am – 2pm
Get crafty with our upcycling workshop. Make a ladybug out of household waste, taking inspiration from Kusama’s love of nature and world of dots.
Yayoi Kusama: You, Me and the Balloons Curator Talk, Saturday 5 August
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is a remarkable figure, both a boundary-pushing pioneer of post-war art and one of today’s leading contemporary artists. Her journey from wartime provincial Japan to global cultural icon is mythic in its scope. In this illustrated talk from Phoebe Greenwood (Factory International Curatorial Associate) and Katy Wan (Tate Curator and curator of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms) audiences will hear about the artist’s influential career, as well as her spectacular new show You, Me and the Balloons.
Cardboard world making, Thursday 10 and 17 August, 11am – 2pm
Build a sustainable cardboard structure with our immersive construction workshop, then draw and colour it in. All tools are child-safe.
Kusama Postcards, Wednesday 16 August, 11am – 2pm
Create your own Kusama inspired postcard and gift it to a loved one. Then add your own Kusama style dot to a group art piece and watch as it comes alive.
Yayoi Kusama, You, Me and the Balloons, The Warehouse, Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester, factoryinternational.org/yayoi-kusama
The exhibition is accompanied by a new catalogue from Factory International Publishing, edited by Phoebe Greenwood, Factory International Curatorial Associate, with new contributions from Yayoi Kusama, Philippa Perry, Professor Anil Seth, Akira Tatehata, Franck Gautherot and Seungduk Kim. The catalogue is available from Aviva Studios at £19.99 for exhibition ticket holders and £29.99 full price.
Factory International is the organisation that runs and programmes Manchester International Festival and the landmark new cultural venue, Aviva Studios, a global destination for arts, music and culture in the heart of Manchester. MIF23 provides the first opportunity for audiences to experience the new venue ahead of its official opening in October. Factory International will commission and present a year-round programme of original creative work, music and special events at its new venue, online, and internationally through its network of co-commissioners and partners.
Designed by Ellen van Loon, OMA Partner and lead architect, the ultra-flexible building is based around vast, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop works of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world. It is the largest national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 and is made possible thanks to initial HM Government investment and backing from Manchester City Council and Arts Council England.
About the artist
Over the course of her distinguished career, Yayoi Kusama has developed a practice, which, though it shares affiliations with Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop art, Eccentric Abstraction, the Zero and Nul movements, resists any singular classification. Born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929, she studied painting in Kyoto before moving to New York in the late 1950s, and by the mid-1960s had become well known in the avant-garde world for her provocative happenings and exhibitions. Since this time, Kusama’s extraordinary artistic endeavours have spanned painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, performance, film, printmaking, installation and environmental art as well as literature, fashion (most notably in her 2012 and 2022 collaborations with Louis Vuitton) and product design.
In the late 1990s, Kusama started to create inflatable sculptures of colossal volume and scale that she calls her ‘balloons’. Their arrival marked an important turning point in Kusama’s career. Today, the artist’s boundary-pushing role in the history of post-war art and significance as a 1960s counter-culture icon is well acknowledged, but she was marginalised by the art establishment for decades. Kusama’s reappreciation began in the 1990s when an in-depth critical survey in New York in 1989 and her acclaimed Japanese Pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 1993 reintroduced her work to the world. As well known in America as Andy Warhol in the late 1960s but overlooked since she returned to live and work in Japan in 1973, Kusama was again hailed as a pioneer.
Kusama lives and works in Tokyo, where the Yayoi Kusama Museum opened in October 2017. Over the past decade there have been museum exhibitions of Kusama’s work touring the world in North America, Japan, Korea, Singapore, China, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Spain, England, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, Canada, Taiwan, Indonesia, Germany, Israel and Hong Kong. In 2014 she was declared the world’s most popular artist by The Art Newspaper based on global museum visitor numbers. In 2016 Kusama received the Order of Culture, one of the highest honours bestowed by the Imperial Family in Japan. Kusama is the first woman to be honoured with Japan’s prestigious medal for drawings and sculptures.