An exhibition on Yayoi Kusama, an internationally acclaimed Japanese avant-garde artist, opened in Singapore on Friday to a steady stream of visitors -- some of them fans and others who had not heard of her before.
The show at Singapore's National Gallery, which lasts until Sept. 3, marks the first major museum exhibition in Southeast Asia for 88-year-old artist whose career has spanned decades.
It features 120 of her works spanning her artistic career, including new, never-before-exhibited pieces, and is being held on the heels of well-received Kusama exhibitions in both Washington and Tokyo.
"She probably is the most influential living artist and there's never been a major show of her work in Southeast Asia and certainly not in Singapore," said Russell Storer, senior curator at Singapore's National Gallery.
"So we thought it is a good time to really give people an opportunity to view an extensive selection of her work and really help them understand where she's coming from," he said.
Compared to the recent exhibition in Tokyo, which was much bigger in scale and more comprehensive, the Singapore one has been arranged to showcase her journey as an artist, beginning with some of her earliest works in 1952, Storer said.
"People there know her work quite well. Here, it's not as well known. So we wanted it to have it more as a journey, I guess. We wanted to show all the key phases in her work...really select works that represented key developments or key phases of her career."
Besides painting, Kusama had also dabbled with different mediums and genres, and these were also included.
For example, a poignant video recording of her reciting her own poem about struggling with depression is being shown, a room with stainless steel balls decorating its floor, and a room painted all over with polka dots with reflective mirrors at the center.
Her penchant for featuring polka dots, pumpkins and phalluses pervades the exhibition.
The exhibits were sourced from a range of collections, from the artist's studio, from private collections in Japan, Singapore, Philippines and Taiwan, and from museums in Japan and Australia, Storer said.
"She has a very close involvement in every project. We went to meet her in Tokyo in her studio last year, and introduced it to the gallery and talked about what we wanted to do. She was very enthusiastic," he said.
The artist has not been able to come to Singapore. "She doesn't really travel now. She just wants to work. She just wants to paint every day."
One of the brand new paintings being shown to the public for the first time is "Life is the Heart of a Rainbow" which is also the name for the whole exhibition.
"She chose this painting because her image of Singapore is a very colorful and very vibrant place, so she really thought this painting represented what Singapore meant to her and she chose this to represent the exhibition and the title of the show."
Arradhana Aiyappa, a 25-year-old architect from Bangalore, India, who is visiting Singapore as a tourist, was among the first visitors.
She developed a liking for Kusama's art when she visited her exhibition in London a few years ago.
"I really like the fact her work is very bold and expressive, like her use of color and how she uses space as an expression of her art as well. Her art goes beyond canvas."