MoMA PS1 presents Yayoi Kusama’s (Japan, b. 1929) site-specific installation of Narcissus Garden (1966–present) as the third iteration of Rockaway!, a free public art festival presented with Rockaway Artists Alliance, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Bloomberg Philanthropies in the Gateway National Recreation Area at Fort Tilden. Comprised of 1,500 mirrored stainless steel spheres, Narcissus Garden is on view in a former train garage that dates to the time when Fort Tilden was an active US military base. The mirrored metal surfaces reflect the industrial surroundings of the now-abandoned building, drawing attention to Fort Tilden’s history as well as the devastating damage inflicted on many buildings in the area by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Narcissus Garden was first presented in 1966, when Kusama staged an unofficial installation and performance at the 33rd Venice Biennale. The silver spheres, originally made from plastic, were installed on the lawn in front of the Italian Pavilion, reflecting the landscape of the exhibition grounds. Kusama herself stood among them, barefoot and dressed in a gold kimono, alongside yard signs inscribed with the words “Narcissus Garden, Kusama” and “Your Narcissism for Sale.” Throughout the opening day of the exhibition, Kusama remained in the installation, tossing the spheres in the air and offering to sell them to visitors for 1,200 lire (approximately $2) each. The action, which was viewed both as self-promotion and a critique on the commercialization of contemporary art, would later be seen as a pivotal moment in Kusama’s career as she transitioned from installation toward the radical, politically charged public performances that would be the focus of her work in the late 1960s in New York City.
The performances that followed the first presentation of Narcissus Garden became increasingly more elaborate and regularly involved multiple participants. Kusama often staged these happenings in or near New York City parks and cultural landmarks, including Body Festival (1967) in Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park, Love In Festival (1968) and Bust Out Happening (1969) in Central Park, and Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead (1968) in the sculpture garden of The Museum of Modern Art. Iterations of Narcissus Garden have since been presented worldwide.
The installation of Narcissus Garden is accompanied by an exhibition in the neighboring Rockaway Artist Alliance gallery that charts the history of Rockaway! and the ongoing work of the Rockaway Artist Alliance.
Rockaway! is a celebration of the ongoing recovery of the Rockaway Peninsula following the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, organized in collaboration with the Rockaway Artists Alliance, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service. Rockaway! 2018 is a continuation of MoMA PS1’s ongoing collaborative programming alongside the Rockaway Artists Alliance that began with collaborating on rescue efforts immediately following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and continued with the VW Dome 2 in 2013; Rockaway! in summer 2014, which featured solo projects by Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Janet Cardiff, as well as a group show at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club; and the second iteration of Rockaway!, in 2016, featuring a site-specific outdoor installation by Katharina Grosse.
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