Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Narcissus Garden’ Is Coming to the Rockaways

Posted June 18, 2018 12:19 a.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Art lovers and Instagram fanatics will both have a good reason to head to the Rockaways this summer: Yayoi Kusama’s shimmering “Narcissus Garden” will be installed there starting July 1.

The work is made up of 1,500 mirrored stainless steel spheres placed in the imposing confines of Fort Tilden, a former Army base on the beach in Queens. The spheres — about a foot in diameter — will reflect and distort the industrial surroundings.

Kusama first presented the piece in 1966 at the Venice Biennale, where she stood with a sign that read “Your Narcissism for Sale” and offered to sell the spheres to passers-by for about $2. The piece has since been installed around the world, including in Brazil and Central Park. And while critics suggest that “Narcissus Garden” is a protest against the commercialization of art and a culture of vanity, the work — like many of Kusama’s other mirror-based pieces — is also ready-made for selfies.

The building that will house the work was a former train garage and repair facility; more recently it hosted Patti Smith’s “Resilience of the Dreamer”in 2014. Kusama is working closely with Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1, and his team to create a new site-specific version of “Narcissus Garden.” “It will look very, very different than before,” Biesenbach said in a phone interview.

The installation is part of MoMA PS1’s Rockaway!, a yearly arts festival devoted to the ongoing recovery of the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy. (Smith’s “Resilience” was part of the festival). And hurricanes are not the only threat to the area, which has long suffered from erosion; city officials closed a stretch of the beach last month because of erosion.

As a resident of the Rockaways, Biesenbach has seen the damage firsthand: “In March, Patti and I couldn’t even get to the beach anymore because so much of it got eroded,” he said. “You realize that once news is not new, the attention moves away.”

“Narcissus Garden” will be on view through Sept. 3, and is presented in collaboration with the Rockaway Artists Alliance, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service and Bloomberg Philanthropies.