Beat the crowds, get the best pictures. We tell you how to do that and more at the YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore.



Yes it seems like everyone has gone a little dotty. Maybe you’re right. The first week of Yayoi Kusama’s first major exhibition in Southeast Asia at the National Gallery Singapore has just passed and judging by the pictures of the queues on social media, Kusama fever has hit the nation.

Titled YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow, the exhibition features over 120 works, including new, never-before-seen, pieces. It’s not just another Instagram photo-op though. Kusama’s work, as Dr Eugene Tan, Director of the National Gallery Singapore describes, is a “powerful introduction to important modern art movements and methods such as Surrealism, Pop, Minimalism, Performance and Conceptual art.” Okay.

First of all, there’s no need to be an art aficionado to enjoy the exhibition, but it’ll probably help to know these:

  • Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist. Born in Nagano prefecture in 1929, she established her career as an avant-garde artist and was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2016. She was also bestowed the prestigious “Order of Culture” award in Japan last year and currently lives and works in Tokyo.
  • At the exhibition, you’ll get to see over 120 artworks spanning over 70 years of Kusama’s artistic practice.
  • A lot of these are her trademark polka dots and nets, pumpkins, and infinity mirror rooms.
  • The mirrored peep room, I WANT TO LOVE ON THE FESTIVAL NIGHT, was specially created for the Gallery.
  • Kusama’s most recent works – a cluster of soft sculptures and several paintings from her ‘My Eternal Soul’ series, are on display for the first time. The painting Life is the Heart of a Rainbow is also on display for the first time.

Now here’s how you can beat the crowds and get the best YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow experience at the National Gallery Singapore:

1. Go Early

The early bird catches the worm, or in this case, the shortest queues, the emptiest rooms, the most Instagrammable angles with no other people in it. The National Gallery opens at 10am so be there just before.

2. Buy Tickets Online

Buy your tickets online to save time, because even if you’ve bought your tickets online, you will still have to go to the ticketing counter to collect a physical ticket to enter the exhibition. But you’ll be in the shorter queue which is specially set up for those who have – yes – bought tickets online.

3. Plan your Pictures

Want the perfect #ootd? While in the queue with your BFFs, plan. Plan, plan, plan. Plan where you want to take your picture. Plan who will go first, and who’ll be taking whose picture. Plan which pose you’ll be doing. Then practise, practise, practise. The pose. The gaze. Your version of Blue Steel. Once you go in, you’ll have approximately 30 seconds to stop, drop, and shoot. That’s if you have a clear room, by the way. If there are other people in there with you, you may have to wait till they’re done with their Polaroid, selfie, wefie, Instagram, and so on before you have your chance to get a clear shot of just you and the dots.

4. Queue again

Didn’t get it right the first time? Queue again to go another time. Seriously! Thanks to gallery staff who time the entrances and exits, you’ll never have to wait too long before it’s your turn to do the pose again. And while you’re in the queue? See the point above.

5. Wear a Solid Colour

Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of the Souls, 2008 ©YAYOI KUSAMA

Your Hello Kitty or Pokemon T-shirt may be designer gear, but it’ll definitely clash with the background. For the best pictures, wear solid colours. Something light-coloured and flow-y is best, says our videographer.

6. Consider Other Timings

On Fridays, Saturdays, and the eve of public holidays, the National Gallery closes at 10pm instead of the usual 7pm.  Because of that, you’ll have time to explore the exhibition at a more leisurely pace.

7. Become a Gallery Insider

From $30 a year, Gallery Insiders enjoy free entry to all exhibitions for one year, priority lanes, invitations to exclusive Insider-only events as well as enjoy discounts at the Gallery’s shopping and dining options. With a Family membership, two adults and up to three children (12 years and below) enjoy unlimited free entry to all exhibitions, priority access, discounts, plus priority booking and discount on tickets for paid family programmes. It’s probably worth it – definitely!

8. Don’t Forget the Meals and the Merch!

All done? Finally! How about bringing home a piece of Kusama? You can find an extensive range of merchandise online and in-store at the National Gallery. Some items are exclusive to Gallery & Co. and cannot be found anywhere else in the world! You can also bring home a bit of Kusama in your stomach as Gallery tenants such as Aura Sky Lounge and Gallery & Co. have created Kusama-inspired F&B. We didn’t try them so let us know how they taste, k?

9. Should you Bring the Kids?

Only if they are queue-friendly. Best times to go? Weekdays at 10am, as soon as the Gallery opens. That’s when the queues are shortest. Furthermore, do note that one section of artworks, where Kusama’s performance art is featured, is restricted to visitors 18 years and above as it includes mature content (nudity and sexual content). You can also join the Family Weekends sessions which happen very second Saturday and Sunday from July to September. These artist-led workshops and storytelling sessions that explore the patterns, shapes and colours in Kusama’s work. Visit www.nationalgallery.sg/learn/families for more information.

June school holidays - biennale

By the way, there’s another Kusama room – the Obliteration Room – that you can explore (for free!) at the Concourse Gallery 2, Level B1, Supreme Court Wing. Part of the Gallery Children’s Biennale which runs through 8 October 2017, this is where you can stick coloured dots onto any available surface of a white room. A sticker sheet is included in the Children’s Biennale Art Pack ($5 from the ticketing counters at Level B1). Alternatively, donate $2 at The Obliteration Room for a sheet of stickers.

(See also: 10 Kid-Friendly Ways to get Artsy at Dreams & Stories, the First-ever Gallery Children’s Biennale)

Finally, and MOST importantly…

10. Be Patient. Be very, very Patient

We Singaporeans are famous for our ability to queue. We queue for Hello Kitty, for food, for the MRT, for preschool registration, for Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, insert-your-own-music star concert tickets. If we were to choose a national letter, it’d probably be the letter ‘Q’! So come prepared to queue, and try not to succumb to the other national activity – complaining.

We heard about one Kusama fan in the United States who queued two hours to enter the museum where her exhibition was being held. When she finally got in, she found that the expected queuing time for the infinity mirror room was 13 hours! *faint* Don’t worry, you’re unlikely to be caught in such a line at the National Gallery. Due to the fact that tickets are sold on a timed-entry basis here, the crowd will never be overwhelming. Yes, you may have to wait. But yes, it’ll be worth it.

#SGLovesKusama

YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

When 9 June – 3 September 2017
Hours 10am – 7pm (Sun – Thu & Public Holidays), 10am – 10pm (Fri – Sat & Eve of Public Holidays). Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time
Where National Gallery Singapore
Tickets $25 (standard), $20 (concession). Free for children 6 years and under, local and locally-based students and teachers, persons with disabilities and one caregiver. Concessions apply to children ages 7–12, seniors 60 years and above, full-time National Servicemen (NSF) excluding foreign personnel and overseas students and teachers. Valid verification is needed.
Note There’s free admission during open houses on Hari Raya Puasa (25-26 June) and National Day (9 August)
Web www.nationalgallery.sg/yayoi-kusama

Header image: The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens, 2017 ©YAYOI KUSAMA

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