“During the June holidays, when my son Andreas’ preschool organised a trip to the Children’s Biennale at the National Gallery, I accompanied the group as a parent chaperone. The show was a hit as the kids were able to discover art in a whole new way.
One exhibit that really stands out is Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room. What starts out as a completely white room filled with white furniture magically transforms into a colorful and psychedelic space. This is because these young kids/artists are given polka-dot stickers to paste wherever they like. What a brilliant idea! Of course, the kids had a blast!
Indeed, when I heard that the 88-year-old pop culture icon was debuting her collection that spans seven decades, I was eager to check it out the art of 2015’s world’s most popular artist.
Would it be appropriate for my toddler though, I wondered? The last thing I wanted was my little tyke being on his worst behaviour in public because he was consumed with boredom. But if the Obliteration Room is anything to go by, Kusama’s work might resonate with my kiddo, I thought, so I decided to take my chances.
Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow showcases the avant garde pioneer’s signature splash of polka dots, hypnotic infinity mirror rooms, mesmerising light displays and shiny pumpkin sculptures. It’s a sight to behold ― not just for me, but also my little one.
Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow showcases the avant garde pioneer’s signature splash of polka dots, hypnotic infinity mirror rooms, mesmerising light displays and shiny pumpkin sculptures.
Besides being a little fidgety while waiting in line (there will be lots of queueing, so bring snacks to pass the time), my little man thoroughly enjoyed his visit. It’s been two weeks since his trip, but he’s still talking about it!
If you’re wondering what this exhibition is all about, and how to navigate it, let me break it down for you, so your young ’un will truly enjoy his experience. Here’s a round-up of the top five sections that will truly blow everyone’s mind. Oh, did I mention that it’s going to totally up your Instagram game as well?
Exhibit #1 The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens
After walking through a collection of paintings, our first interactive display was the “yellow pumpkin room” as my 3-year-old likes to call it. In the middle of this tiny yellow room filled with black polka-dots sits a large cube. Because it’s covered in mirrors, the cube offers spectacular optical illusions for whomever walks past ― towards or away from it. Andreas thoroughly enjoyed playing peekaboo here. Before you leave, don’t forget to scale the three steps that will lead you to an unassuming opening. Stick your head in and you’ll see thousands of yellow pumpkins. A great use of mirrors to trick the naked eye, I must say. (Photos: www.mutualart.com and www.atoddlerinthetrees.com)
Exhibit #2 Mirror and Infinity
This walkway is literally dotted with curved, round mirrors. They are everywhere ― on every wall and even on the ceiling. My little boy enjoyed walking around, running towards and away from them to watch his reflection change. One minute he was tall, the next short, sometimes he looked squashed and other times he was pudgy. It made him laugh hysterically. Then my hubby carried him over his shoulders, so he could check out the mirrors on the ceiling. It was “so much fun”, he tells me. I will take his word for it. (Photo: Jassmin Peter-Bertnzen)
Exhibit #3 Infinity Mirrored Room ― Gleaming Lights of the Soul
In this walk-in installation, Kusama invites you into a tiny dark room filled with colourful dangly light bulbs. You’re ushered inside in small groups of five or fewer and given only 20 seconds to soak it all in ― and take as many pictures as you can. You’re also given strict instructions to refrain from tugging at any of the lights. It obviously fell on deaf toddler ears because my mini-me was so amazed by the lights, he couldn’t help but get a little touchy-feely. Oh and also, 20 seconds is way too short for a toddler ― he demanded we join the queue again, so he could see it one more time! (Photo: National Gallery)
Exhibit #4 I Want to Love on the Festival Night
This dark room filled with black-and-white paintings and drawings, is underwhelming for a little one at first glance. But wait till junior takes a peek into the tall mirrored booth that sits right smack in the middle. There are peep holes everywhere ― some high up for adults and others down low for little people. Stick your head in and you will come face-to-face with a hypnotic arrangement of colourful lights. Don’t blink because you might just miss the quick light-changing sequence which will leave you fizzing with excitement. We did have one problem here though ―my son refused to leave. (Photo: Jassmin Peter-Bertnzen)
Don’t blink because you might just miss the quick light-changing sequence which will leave you fizzing with excitement.
Exhibit #5 With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever
Junior will reunite with an up-sized version his favourite polka-dot room ― just make sure to remind him that he can’t paste stickers wherever he feels like it here! The adult form of the Obliteration Room is just as fascinating, if not more so, because the colourful dots are much bigger and plastered over quirky white sculptures. A great place for selfies and wefies! (Photo: National Gallery)
Exhibit #6 Narcissus Garden
Walk into this room and you will see nothing but balls, balls and more balls ― 1,500 to be exact. Intricately-placed and spaced, these stainless-steel balls are an obvious extension of Kusama’s obsession with dots. The mirrored spheres are reflective in more ways than one and forces you to take a good long look at yourself, which gives an idea as to how Kusama created the name for the exhibit. Before you enter, you’re told not touch any of the balls ― something I had to keep reiterating to my itchy-fingered little fella. His face lit up and eyes widened when he saw the sheer number of balls. He made a joke about wanting to kick them (or at least I think it was a joke), but to my surprise, he sat gingerly next to several of them and asked for his picture to be taken. Ahh…he’s finally jumping on the Instagram bandwagon. #Proudmummymoment.” (Photo: Jassmin Peter-Bertnzen)
Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow will run until 3 September 2017 at the Singtel Special Exhibition. Access to the National Gallery is free for all Singaporeans and PRs, but you must pay to enter this exhibition – $15 (Singaporeans/PRs)/$25 (non-Singaporeans). Free for children 6 years and under, local and locally-based students and teachers, people with disabilities and one caregiver. Click here to skip the queue and buy your tickets online.
Jassmin Peter-Berntzen, 36, SmartParents assistant editor, is mum to Andreas Dhiraj, 3.
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