Conservation work prior to exhibition
Yayoi Kusama – In Infinity is the first major retrospective presentation of Kusama’s oeuvre in Scandinavia, spanning her entire artistic career from the early 1950s until today. The exhibition features a rich selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures, including spatial installations and performance-related material. An exhibition of this scale and with such wide variation in material requires much preparation by the museum staff. Many of the artworks are installations where parts have been produced for the exhibit; other works are loans and must be handled according to special instructions. A big challenge is to make sure that the art is protected without interfering with the audience’s experience of the often very fragile artworks.
Kusama’s collected works include different techniques and mixed materials that have many preservation issues. Some works include combinations of materials, for example stuffed textile applications, spray painted pasta, inflatable sculptures and impasto painting in large scale.For the museum’s conservators a large part of the work is to plan, condition check, and document the artworks’ condition prior to and after the exhibition, and control that the condition hasn’t changed. During the exhibition it is a daily routine to inspect and care for the artworks.
Suit (1962) from the Moderna Museet’s collection
The work Suit from 1962 belongs to the Moderna Museet collection. It is a set combined of a skirt and jacket, with gold painted stuffed textile applications adhered with an adhesive containing a mortar filling. The work entered the collection in 2000 as a donation from Kerstin and Pontus Bonnier. During the 1960’s Kusama was living in New York and a number of works from the same period are displayed together with Suit in the exhibition.
Suit is placed on a hanger and the mortar adhesive is adhered in a thick layer under, in between and on top of the textile. This gives the suit a fragile and stiff surface that makes it brittle and fragile during handling. The weight of the adhesive combined with the weight of the applications has a straining effect on the fabric in Suit and some areas have lost their golden paint because of the inflexibility and strength in the adhesive and the qualities of the underlying surface.
Prior to the exhibition’s first destination, Louisiana, in Denmark, the museum’s sculpture and objects conservator My Bundgaard secured Suit so that loose surface parts have been fastened with no risk of loss during transportation, handling or when installing. The flaking paint was consolidated with an adhesive suitable for conservation. The suit was transported in a special adapted case and Moderna Museet’s staffs have supervised the handling during the tour. The handling of this artwork is special since it is displayed freely hanging and therefore must be installed with a supporting tray in order not to be exposed to stress during hanging on the wall.
Kusama’s travelling archive
A place specific selection of Kusama’s private archive is part of the exhibition. The extensive selection at Moderna Museet, consists of 110 selected documents including photographs, letters, catalogues, press cuttings, drawings and notebooks. It gives an opportunity to learn about earlier exhibitions, early drawings, and read articles about Kusama’s happenings and correspondence for example between the artist and Georgia O’Keefe. It is rare to have the opportunity to see such a large volume of such material and much of it is sensitive and fragile. Selecting the material, preparing for display and mounting, and foremost the handling of the material has taken time. The archive material is displayed in six themed museum cases placed throughout the exhibition.
The Inner and Outer Space
In the Moderna Museet’s own archive an early letter correspondence between Kusama and Pontus Hultén (1924-2006) was discovered. Hultén exhibited Kusama already in 1965 in The Inner and Outer Space and in photographs from that exhibition you can see Boat (1964). The letter and a photo from the museum archive is now for the first time displayed with Yayoi Kusama’s own archival material.