Yayoi Kusama Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Museum Macan

Hi guys! It's been a while since my last post. This will be a really long post so read it while you are not busy peeps!

Have you heard about Museum Macan (Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara) before the art exhibition of Yayoi Kusama? If you have not, well, don't worry you are not alone! I was fortunate enough to visit the Jakarta, Indonesia while the Yayoi Kasuma - Life is the Heart of the Rainbow was in the exhibition. I decided to visit the museum without giving much thought to what I would actually see.

I came here with my friend and we were so happy and excited about this museum. We visit this museum on Tuesday morning and we found the museum has been crowded with people who want to see the exhibition. I think most of the crowd visit the museum just to take a beautiful picture for their Instagram feed, which is completely okay. But for me, there’s something more than an Instagram feed.

Below are some amazing artworks you’ll see at the exhibition!

Before entering the museum, we will pass the ticket checking gate first, and the security will check your belongings.

The exterior of the building is a sight to behold! The first things that I saw were big yellow balloons with black dots. My friend took a photo of me there.

This is a room called Dots Obsession. Painting with brightly colored polka dots.

Don't forget to book your tickets in advance so that you can get the earliest museum entry time possible. If you don't, you'll have to wait in the standby line which can take hours.

The rules are pretty strict. In two hours, you would get used to some prohibition sentences like – no sitting, no touching, no leaning, no flash, and no taking photos for some objects in the museum, duh!

Museum Macan has elevators for visitors that might have certain disabilities. 

The flowers that bloom at midnight. Flower sculptures by Yayoi Kusama.

Hymn of life: Tulips by Yayoi Kusama.

Pumpkin is one of Kusama's first forays into outdoor sculpture.

The giant, yellow pumpkin sculpture is painted with rows of black dots fanning out from large to small around the gourd.

Make sure you start by reading Yayoi Kusama biography wall to get to know her before you step into her work and awe. The exhibition traces the development of artistic concepts that are fundamental to Kusama’s vision, including infinity, repetition, and self-obliteration.

Yayoi Kusama is labeled as The Queen of Polka Dot since most of her artworks dominate the pattern. Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama began painting as a small child and, against her parent's wishes. She was born to a well-established conservative family that owned a seed nursery business and she spent her childhood surrounded by her family’s seed harvesting grounds. Frustrated with the oppression she felt from conservative Japanese society, she moved to New York to continue pursuing art and eventually became a key fixture in the Pop Art movement with her provocative exhibitions and demonstrations.

From what I read about Yayoi Kusama, she's actually a painter who suffered from mental illness. Yayoi Kusama has coped with severe psychological difficulties since she was a young child and even according to her own admission it is believed that her art is primarily inspired by the state of her mental health. Abused by her mother during her childhood, she began suffering from intense audio-visual hallucinations which have continued throughout her lifetime. 

After living in New York for much of her adult life, Kusama returned to Japan in 1973. In 1977 she was committed to a psychiatric hospital and has been living there ever since. Although it is believed she entered voluntarily she has stated in multiple interviews that this was not the case. She is allowed to work on her art at a studio across the street and writes novels in her room at the hospital at night.

According to an interview with Kusama, art is both type of release as well as a kind of treatment for her psychological problems. She often worked for days when feeling pushed to complete a series, such as she did in the 1950s when producing her Infinity Nets huge canvases filled completely with minute circles, forming magnificent nets resulting in the viewer having the sense of being overwhelmed by the vision. When working on them it was not unusual for Kusama to go for days without food or sleep and she has referred to this as a type of “self-obliteration”. 

When she feels mentally stable enough to tolerate interviews she is candid about her condition and has admitted her visual hallucinations and fear of sexual relationships have caused her to completely cove objects, images and even people in dots and phallic representations.

In a 1999 interview with BOMB Artists in Conversation, Kusama stated: "My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings. All my works in pastels are the products of obsessional neurosis and are therefore inextricably connected to my disease. I create pieces even when I don’t see hallucinations, though. By translating hallucinations and fear of hallucinations into paintings, I have been trying to cure my disease."

Some have put forth the idea that projecting her visual perceptions and obsessions into the world brings Kusama a sense of relief though only temporary. According to her own statements, although generally believed she suffers from the co-occurrence of bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms and obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia, Kusama has said she suffered from Basedow’s disease, also known as Graves disease.

This disease is a form of hyperthyroidism which can produce symptoms of mania that are almost identical to the manic symptoms found in bipolar disorder. Graves disease has also been shown to result in psychotic symptoms such as persecutory hallucinations and unfounded paranoia. 

At the same time having bipolar disorder and schizophrenia increase the risk of developing hyperthyroidism so it is difficult to say whether Kusama’s hyperthyroidism resulted from bipolar disorder or was the cause of manic symptoms. When the psychiatric symptoms are caused by the Graves disease, they remit with successful treatment of the hyperthyroid condition.

Yayoi Kusama underwent surgery for her thyroid disease as well as to remove a myoma from her uterus shortly after her return to Japan in 1973. Yet she continued to suffer from hallucinations and obsessions resulting in her hospitalization in 1977. Kusama has stated that she suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder but not “manic-depressive psychosis”, attributing her hallucinations and obsessions to her thyroid disease.

However, there are several facts which argue against hyperthyroidism being the sole cause of her mental problems. First, she has had an unbelievably prolific career from an early age. Before leaving Japan at the age of 29, she has said that her mother destroyed the majority of the work she had completed at that point. Yet she still left Japan with over 2000 remaining works. She has also worked in numerous mediums including painting, sketching, fashion, furnishings, sculpture and other types of art and has published novels, novellas, and books of poetry.

Second, Kusama suffered from hallucinations and obsessions from the time she was 10 years old if not earlier. While Graves disease does occur in childhood, it is much rarer than occurrences in adulthood. She also seems to link the onset of her hallucinations, severe anxiety and obsessions with trauma related to severe physical abuse at the hands of her mother. Research has shown a strong link between childhood physical abuse and psychotic, anxiety and bipolar symptoms.

The most telling fact, however, is that not only did her psychiatric symptoms not remit following successful thyroid surgery she was involuntarily hospitalized for these problems and has remained hospitalized for almost 40 years. Although the length of hospitalization in Japan averaging slightly over a year, is far longer than in any other industrialized country, it is normal for even those with psychotic disorders to be treated and released. There are no other indications of other living in a psychiatric hospital in Japan permanently and certainly not for 40 years. 

The stigma in Japan associated with mental disorders, in particular, schizophrenia is extreme and Kasama has always admittedly suffered from extreme anxiety which may have led her to fear to leave the hospital. Yet it is difficult to believe, even in a country with the longest length of stay, that her treatment team would not have addressed her anxiety such that she would have been released when judged stable and not a threat to herself or others.

There is no official statement as to whether Kusama’s condition involves co-occurring physical and psychiatric disorders or whether one type preceded and determined the onset of the other. The statements the artist herself has made through the years, however, seem to indicate that her psychiatric symptom both preceded and superseded her physical problems. It is therefore likely that she is suffering from some form of bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms. Additionally, according to her own report she suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder although there is no actual report from her or others as to examples of classic OCD symptoms she may be manifesting. 

At the same time, research also shows that girls who are physically abused in childhood are at greater risk for developing Graves disease and other autoimmune diseases later in life. Research has also determined that long-term or severe physical abuse in childhood can cause permanent changes to brain structure and functioning, immune functioning, and susceptibility to a variety of physical and mental disorders.

Infinity Mirrored Room was created by Yayoi Kusama. This installation is a mirror-lined chamber with flashing LED lights that viewers look into. You could only bring your pocket and smartphone inside, other than that should be kept on a deposit counter.

It was my first time there so not so familiar with the place and took a bit of time to find the Infinity Mirrored Room. Since this attraction was very popular there were long queues and everyone is only allowed for 30 seconds to have an opportunity to visit and take a photo. You will have to get the perfect shot quickly, before the door opens and mark your time out. You can also return to have a second or third chance inside, but you will have to go back to the queue in the line again.

My Eternal Soul exhibition features 132 paintings from Kusama's “My Eternal Soul” series that she embarked on in 2009.

About the Museum:
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara or Museum MACAN is an art museum at Kebon Jeruk in Jakarta, Indonesia. The museum is the first in Indonesia to have a collection of modern and contemporary Indonesian and international art. It has a display area of about 4,000 square meters. The museum is included in a list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places 2018 released by Time magazine. 

Museum MACAN opened in November 2017. The museum displays around 90 works from a collection totaling 800 modern Indonesian and contemporary artworks from around the world including 'Infinity Mirrored Room' by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Contemporary and modern art displayed by the MACAN museum is not limited to paintings but also includes contemporary styles using various media, techniques, and installation art.

The drawings are filled with biomorphic shapes and decorative elements in a riot of bright colors. In the middle of the hall are sculptures, painted in vibrant lively hues and decorated with colorful dots. The works feel playful, depicting abstract scapes of soft-edged forms and patterns, among others.

This exhibition was opened on May 12th and already closed on September 9th, 2018. The entrance fee is a bit pricey in my mind for the limited amount of exhibits they have, but once you're in it is interesting.

There are numerous works that cover the special exhibition galleries. Some of the exhibitions included the iconic dots, infinity rooms, pumpkins, and artwork.

Yayoi Kusama works with a marker pen to release these works, which permits greater precision with the fine lines and minute details in her markings. Her compositions fill the entire canvas with meticulous attention to form. No space that could be filled is overlooked.

If you like art, this is a great place to visit. This collection will be a delight to you.

As I had never heard of Yayoi Kusuma before now I was totally knocked out by the sheer beauty of her work.

Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.

I was sucked in to take a video of myself infinitely mirrored.

Thousands of illuminated colours blinking at the speed of light.

Yayoi Kasuma has an amazing room which started out as white but as everyone adds stickers the room has taken a magical turn. The obliteration room is also limited to a number of people each time and you can take as many photos as your heart desires.

In the obliteration room, Yayoi Kusama provides colorful and different sizes dot stickers that visitors can use to eliminate the traces of the original white room through the act of communal “obliteration.”

You may stick them onto the walls, your clothes or your face and other objects in the all-white room.

We passed by “Narcissus Garden” which was 1,500 oversized stainless steel balls spread out on the floor.

Dots obsession–love transformed into dots.

The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens.

Yayoi Kusama's 'Pollen' at Museum MACAN (1986, Sewn stuffed fabric, synthetic fiber, and paint. Collection of Ota Fine Arts).

A short video inside a small theatre, where you can sit down and listen to Yayoi Kusama singing her original song. Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict installation view. The poem was adapted into a song and video art in 2010.

She is also mentioned in her autobiography that she used to be scared of death because she saw it as something far away, but then it dawned on her that death could be just like 'stepping into the room next door.' Life is the Heart of a Rainbow means making art makes her no longer fear death. She overcame her fear of death by continuing to make art that can withstand time.

She has this incredible ability to create enchanting artwork of many variations with just the dots. There is no trial and error in her work, no stimulation or test, what she paints is in one go.

Leftover snow in the dream.

When Yayoi Kusama was young, she was made by her mother to spy on her father who was at that time having extra-marital affairs. This trauma was what caused the artist to develop a phobia towards man and sex. Ironically, when Yayoi Kusama started making soft sculpture, they often took the form of phallic shapes, such as this leftover snow in the dream – stuffed cushion, sewn and painted in white, taking the form of phallic.

Museum Macan also has a small exhibition by Gatot Indrajati, an installation that called Kotak Utak-Atik or Children’s Art Space. All children have to be accompanied by one adult to enjoy the space.

Overall, after spending the entire afternoon here, I must say that I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the crowd however it’s an interesting place to visit because there were so many different things to see and so many different types of art. Yayoi Kusama’s “life is the heart of a rainbow” was definitely the highlight of my recent Jakarta trip. The architecture is amazing and the artworks are very accessible and varied. We spent over two hours there.

For more detailed information, you can go to:

Telephone : +62 21 2212 1888

AKR Tower, Level MM .JalanPanjang No.5 .KebonJeruk, Jakarta Barat 11530, Indonesia

That's all for my trip to Museum Macan (Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara). I hope you guys really enjoy reading my post about the Yayoi Kusama life is the heart of a rainbow at Museum Macan in Jakarta, as I really spent a lot of time and effort to prepare the materials and editing! See you in my next post!

15 Responses to "Yayoi Kusama Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Museum Macan"

  1. Heard a lot about this place, but it just looks so amazing!!!



  2. Wow.. its amazing post. It makes me try to go there.

  3. So cool!


  4. Such a wonderful post!
    I didn't get the chance to go there, but it's fun to read your post :)

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  5. Kusama is such a prolific artist. It's amazing that she was able to create thousands of paintings, sculptures and art creations despite her struggling with mental illnesses from an early age. Her life story is a sad one, but it is also inspiring that she has managed to be so creative despite everything. Her paintings are so filled with colours and life, I'd love to visit her museum.

  6. Some really interesting art. artist with a fascinating story.

  7. Thanks a lot :D

    seems to be super interesting :)

    InstagramFacebook Official PageMiguel Gouveia / Blog Pieces Of Me :D

  8. I'd love to go there, the photos are amazing!
    Thanks for your comment in my blog, I follow you. Hope you do the same :)

    Freak Muffin Blog

  9. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  10. wowww! what a great museum. Hope i'll be there soon. hihihihi
    btw, I've seen that woman in Madame Toussauds Hong Kong. wkwkwk

  11. What a fun trip! They had a small Yayoi Kusama exhibition here in Brisbane a while ago and the boys love the obliteration room! :)

    Hope that you are having a nice weekend! I finished Christmas food shopping yesterday and all the gifts are bought so now we are just relaxing until the big day :)

    Away From The Blue Blog

  12. I visited the exhibition when it was in Singapore and I loved it! All those dots....

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